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Zoës Kitchen (Plano, Tx.)

My wife had heard of Zoës Kitchen before I had, and mentioned that the menu looked good and that we should try it sometime.  She said that it had some of our favorite culinary selections – hummus, cucumber raita, kabobs – and immediately I was sold.  I love all of those things!  So while we were out and about last Friday night, we decided to stop in and try it out.

Our first attempt for dinner at Zoës proved fruitless, as we discovered upon arrival that they had closed their dining room at 7 PM for a private event – we arrived at around 7:15ish.  They were still providing take out service, but we were hungry and did not want to wait and then have to take it home to eat.  I was, however, amazed that they would close their entire dining room on a Friday night, in a very busy part of Plano, for a private event; a plus if you are looking for a different, healthier fare to hold your own private party – a minus if you are the patron, like us, who wants to come in and eat while said event is going on.  We sadly went next door for dinner, hoping that we could make it by sometime over the weekend for another attempt.

Our second go-around on Saturday was much more successful, when we stopped in for lunch while out shopping and running errands.  We were definitely hungry when we went in, and I was looking forward to trying some kabobs.  We had briefly looked over the menu the night before, and were excited to try some of the fare that they offer.  I didn’t end up getting the kabobs after all, because I had been wanting steak, but they only have them in chicken, shrimp, and veggie (on another day I will sample the chicken and shrimp – but I just wasn’t up for either of those on this particular day).

Erikka chose the Hummus & Salad Plate, which was a reasonably priced $6.95, and consists of Greek salad, cucumber raita, olives, hummus, and warm pita bread wedges.  The Greek salad is made greens, tomato, cucumber, peppers, olives, onions, feta, and Zoës house dressing.  My wife said that the salad is very good, but could have used a bit more dressing.  She did, however, point out that for those who are watching their intake of oils (which the dressing is based of), then the amount presented on the salad was probably just the right amount.  Perhaps this is why each table has its own bottle, so that it can be added if desired.  We both tasted her cucumber raita, and was VERY impressed with the flavor of it.  Having tried raita at several Indian restaurants, we have gotten a wide range of how this dish is considered in various locations:  in some it is considered an appetizer or salad dish, while in others it is considered a dessert.  It is a very basic dish that I delegate more to the salad/appetizer region of the menu, made up of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes (in some), Greek yogurt, and seasonings.  The flavors blend well together, so that the unsweet taste of the yogurt is complimented by the vegetables that are within it.  The only complaint about the raita on this plate would be that there isn’t very much of it – the serving should be larger.  The hummus was very good as well, complimented by the warm wedges of pita bread for dipping, it was a smoothe blend of garbanzo beans and sesame tahini.  I typically use slightly more fresh garlic in my own hummus than what we found at Zoës, but it was still very tasty and a nice treat to find.

I opted, as my lunch, for the chicken salad sandwich with a side of hummus & pita bread.  The sandwich was served on 7-grain bread, and the chicken salad was a very basic chicken breast, mayo, celery, and seasonings; served on the bread with lettuce and tomato.  I’m always pretty picky about any multi-grained bread, as it tends to dry out and at times be like eating cardboard.  But I was quickly sold over and very happy to taste a soft, moist, wonderfully flavored 7-grain bread as I started to eat my sandwich!  I even made my wife taste it, and she’s not a sandwich person (she loved it, too).  I remember noting that it could have used more salt, and almost added some, but decided against it, in a continual attempt to re-train my brain that I don’t need to add salt to everything.  This way, I was able to taste the flavors of the chicken itself, and thoroughly enjoyed my lunch.  The sandwich plates typically come with a side from their “fresh side” choices:  braised white beans, potato salad, pasta salad, rice pilaf, roasted fresh veggies, fresh fruit, or marinated slaw.  I asked if I could have hummus as my side instead, and they said sure, but it cost .75 cents extra I believe.  Well worth the change!  You could also have a side Greek salad as the side, but it is an additional $1.49 as well.

Some of the other highlights include homemade soups that they make from scratch daily -chicken & orzo or tomato bisque.  Both sound good, and I love a good bisque!  There are several salads to choose from, some with meat/fish, and some without.  The choices of sandwiches are really varied, which I liked:  chicken salad, tuna salad, turkey, pimento cheese, egg salad.  There are also specialty sandwiches and pita sandwiches, roll-ups, kabobs, pizzas, and even a “protein power plate.”  There IS a kid’s menu, and the place was full of families with young children, who seemed to be eating their lunches and enjoying them just as much as the adults.  The kids have choices of:  quesadillas, grilled chicken fingers, grilled turkey & cheese sandwich, chicken salad sandwich, a kid’s roll-up, and the kid’s fresh fruit cup.

Zoës also offered several options for beverages, which I thought was nice.  They had several types of water, and my wife was pleased to be able to have Pelegrino with her lunch.  I had a soft drink, but they also have fresh squeezed limeade, juices, milk, tea, beer, and wine.  They only have two types of dessert that I could tell – YaYa’s Handmade Chocolate Cake and house-baked cookies.  I got a piece of the chocolate cake, which was amazingly moist and VERY chocolatey!

Another plus that I noted about Zoës was the selection of Meals to Go – five dinners (to serve four) that you can call ahead and order, and pick up on the way home!  You can also get most of the sides and some of the salads in take home tubs of half-pint, pint, or quart.  We asked about the cucumber raita in the take home tub, and it is reasonably priced at $3ish for the half-pint, and $6ish for the pint sized.  You can get the hummus like this, as well as chicken, potato, pasta, tuna, and egg salads; and the pimento cheese.  Many reviews have had folks raving about the pimento cheese, especially those like myself who didn’t like the stuff before trying it at Zoës – so now it is next on my list to sample.  There are locations all over, which surprised me, because I had never heard of Zoës Kitchen before I was driving up to it – it is currently in twelve states, and ten locations in Texas alone (4 in the Dallas area, 2 in the Ft. Worth area).  Definitely worth trying, if you enjoy fresh Greek/Mediterranean-type foods.  It is also a vegetarian friendly restaurant, where the menu is clearly marked with vegetarian selections by a “V” next to the items.

Zoës Kitchen    

1901 Preston Rd., Suite 1000 / Plano, Tx. 75093

Phone:  972.248.1010

Fax:  972.248.1005

“Simple.  Tasty.  Fresh!”


Global Peace Factory (Frisco, Tx.) – “Every Cup Counts”

When I went out in today’s dreary weather, the grey and drizzle of the day didn’t bother me at all, knowing that I was off to visit what I hoped to be a warm and cozy coffee house for the first time.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, knowing that the place is situated in an upscale little corner of Frisco, right on the NW corner of Highway 121 and Legacy; but when I arrived, just seeing the outside of the place reminded me of some cool, eclectic shop that you might find in Austin or parts of D.C.  

I walked in right at noon, and there were only a couple of tables that had patrons at the time – but within fifteen minutes or so, there were more and more customers coming in and staying to enjoy their coffee and/or lunch.  The building looks smaller from the outside than what you walk into – there is not only the main dining area with tables and chairs (as well as a couch and small lounge chair), but also a stairwell that leads to a loft area with more seating above.  I was greeted by Myshel and Jared, who were working together behind the counter.  They readily answered my questions and made recommendations and suggestions for good lunchtime fare, as well a nod to a pastry of choice.

So I knew going in that I would want a coffee drink.  My drink of choice at the competition’s coffee house is a caramel/mocha frappucino made with soy milk, and I wanted to see if they had something comparable here at Global Peace Factory.  They indeed do have a similar beverage – the frappe’.  I asked what kind of dairy alternatives they have, since I have a pretty bad dairy allergy.  I normally use almond milk at home, to cook with and for smoothies and such; those other guys that make coffee only have soy milk as their dairy alternative.  I was pleased to hear that not only does GPF have the soy milk as an alternative, but also rice milk – at least there are choices!  I ordered my first caramel mocha Frappe’ with rice milk, which I have also never had.  They said it was good and I would like it, so I thought I would give it a  go.  It doesn’t seem to be as creamy as soy or almond milk, but the flavor was good and the change in type of milk was barely noticeable at all.  The caramel and mocha came through separately as well as mutually, making for a nice frozen coffee drink.

I then asked for suggestions for lunch, given that it was noon and I was getting hungry.  Immediately the word “Panini” came out of their mouths, so I figured I should trust them again and go for it.  I ordered a roast beef panini on sourdough bread (usually comes with cheddar cheese, red bell peppers, onion, roast beef, and a creamy horseradish sauce) – mine was made minus the cheese and bell peppers, with extra horseradish sauce.  They brought it out to me on a real plate, with real flatware, and it was fresh and steaming hot.  The roast beef didn’t appear to be just the typical deli-sliced lunchmeat that you or I would get from our local grocer; it was thick and very flavorful, like a Sunday roast that had been cut into sandwich slices.  The sourdough bread was infused with herbs on the outside, which added richness to the flavors of the sandwich.  I was able to eat half of my panini, and then had to have the other half packaged up to take with me – very filling and satisfying. There were several other choices for paninis:  Italian Turkey, Pomodoro Formaggio, and Turkey Club, to name a few.  I had a choice of breads as well for my sandwich:  Artisan Wheat, Sourdough, Jewish Rye, Health Bread (with nuts and sunflower seeds cooked into it).  There were four choices of cheese and several add-ons (double meat, chips, etc.), making the decisions unique to each patron who orders.  The last option that I saw on the menu was their salad, which could be ordered as a side salad, a full meal house salad, with or without meat.  This was so nice – to walk into a coffee house, but have the option to have more than JUST pastries or muffins to go with my beverage (and the “real” food isn’t just popped into a microwave, but cooked fresh to order).

One of the things that Jared suggested trying, if I were going to try one of their pastry treats, was the Almond Croissant.  It looked amazing, but I was too full from my panini and frappe’ to get one today – but am planning on it the next time I visit.  It was a HUGE croissant, with a flaky looking top, almond slices, and powdered sugar.  There were other baked goods in the case, and I believe that I saw an ice cream case (but am not 100% sure of this one).  But there were so many other things on the menu that I want to try, so I’m guaranteed to go back many more times.

Some of the other offerings that you will find at Global Peace Factory that you WON’T find at other large-chain coffee houses are “spirited” coffees, like Irish Cream and coffee, for instance.  They also have wines (sold by the glass OR the bottle) and specialty beers.  They have the standard coffee house selections, of course:  drip coffee, latte’s, cappuccinos, espressos, teas, hot chocolate, juices (fresh-squeezed), and smoothies.  They have a drink of the month – for March it is an Irish Cream Latte’….of course!  There are several different flavors for coffee drinks, sauces, and fruits to choose from.  And icing on the cake is that Jared is a master, professional barista, well capable of creating fantastic blends of coffee drinks with foam artwork on top, while carefully mixing and balancing flavors!

I really enjoyed my visit to Global Peace Factory – and am looking forward to returning to try more and different selections.  The prices may have been a little – and I mean only slightly – higher than the other guys, but the quality of food and service was on another level so as to afford the extra cost.  The Wi-Fi was free (but you have to ask for the security network key), and another plus:  they deliver!  Yes, if you can’t make it to them, they will bring it to YOU!  One thing I do know, I have NEVER seen a coffee house that offer this service – definitely adding another unique notch to what sets them apart.


Global Peace Factory   

1377 Legacy Drive, Suite 100 / Frisco, Tx. 75034

Phone:  214.705.2664

“…a world in peace, not in pieces.”

Mom’s Cafe (Carrollton, Tx.)

This morning we went for Sunday breakfast at one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall spots in town.  As we sat, waiting for our food (which turned out to be more like brunch, since we went at noon), I thought to myself, “Now why haven’t I ever done a write-up on this place?”  We’ve been there tons of times, and I don’t know if we’ve ever gotten anything that we haven’t liked.

The menu is very cut and dry, as it is straightforward, homestyle cooking like you would get at your mom’s or grandma’s.  We go there almost exclusively for breakfast on the weekends, but have eaten lunch a couple of times, and enjoyed it just as much as breakfast.

The offerings are pretty basic, but there is something for pretty much everyone.  Classic buttermilk pancakes – one type, one style.  For less than a dollar extra, however, you can add pecans or bananas to your pancakes and they will not only cook them into your batter, but also serve them atop your stack.  This morning I had pancakes with bananas, and was quite pleased when they arrived to find them cooked into the pancake as well as stacked on top.  They also have one other type of pancake dish, called Branson’s Saddlebags – a pairing of pancake with breakfast meat(s) that equals AMAZING.  In this order, there is one pancake with sausage cooked into the batter, along with one pancake with bacon cooked into the batter.  They are served atop one another, with a braised egg on top of the pancake stack; slap some butter on the pancakes and drizzle maple syrup atop the whole thing, and you have sweet, savory, salty altogether in every bite.  This dish may not be the most dietetic that is out there, but it is worth the carb-blowing treat every once in a while!

If you’re not a pancake fan, they have most breakfast stand-bys and standard fare:  eggs, waffles, French toast, biscuits and gravy, grits, omelets made-to-order, Eggs Benedict, corned beef hash and eggs.  They have breakfast meats, of course:  bacon, sausage, ham, corned beef.  I’m sure that I’m forgetting something, but you get the idea.  I have had eggs in pretty much every way that they make them, and the French toast is amazingly good – made from Texas Toast sized bread, cooked to perfection, and sprinkled slightly with cinnamon and powdered sugar.  Sometimes we put butter and syrup on it, sometimes we just eat it the way it comes!  The biscuits and gravy remind me of the kind that my grandmother made from scratch when I was a kid, every time our family all got together for holidays at her house:  biscuits baked from scratch, and white gravy with chunks of sausage cooked within its creamy yumminess.  I have had an omelet a couple of times, as has guests that I have taken to Mom’s with me; all agree that the omelets are amazing and pretty much made-to-order however you like it…but also HUGE.  I’ve never seen anyone finish an omelet at Mom’s.

Another aspect of Mom’s that I like is the fact that they also serve dishes that are sometimes considered outside the traditional, homestyle breakfast.  They serve Migas (scrambled eggs with tortilla strips, onions, tomatoes, and sometimes green peppers), Breakfast tacos (sausage/egg, steak/egg, bacon/egg), Machacas (these are basically migas with steak cooked in) served with tortillas and salsa, etc.  I have had all of these varieties and have yet to find anything bad to say about them.  Everything is cooked to order, so you are always assured that you are getting your order fresh, just-made, from the kitchen.  I’ve had the Eggs Benedict, which I was hesitant to order, but surprisingly pleased with the rich, full flavors of their Hollandaise sauce served over sliced ham and English Muffin.  On more than one other occasion, I have enjoyed the corned beef hash and scrambled eggs, which are cooked with diced onions – adding a salty savory flavoring combo that pairs well with juice.

As I mentioned before, we mainly frequent Mom’s for the amazing breakfast fare, but have on a couple of occasions ordered lunch while dining there.  I have had their catfish, which I found to be quite tasty – not over-breaded and not over-fried – and served with coleslaw and fried okra.  I have also been there at “brunchtime” and wanted breakfast while wanting lunch at the same time.  I ordered, one time, a fried egg burger (that is NOT on the menu), and they made it exactly to my specifications – once again another amazing meal.  The flavors of the hamburger – patty cooked perfectly, with mayo, lettuce, tomato – paired with the rich flavors of a fried egg over-medium created for me the perfect combination of breakfast and lunch.

The service is always fantastic, and we’ve been going there long enough now that the staff and servers know us when we walk into the door, where we are greeted with a wave, a “hi, come on in and sit down,” or even a hug from our favorite server and friend.  The prices are very affordable, as this is a no-nonsense hole-in-the-wall that is nestled in between a nail salon and a karate studio in a strip center.  You can take kids there and not have a problem finding something on the menu that they will like.  Tables and chairs, as well as booths, line the small space, plain but functional and lending to the old diner feel of the place.  They’ll provide you with never empty coffee, as well as water, soda, tea, or juice.  Definitely worth putting into your GPS and going to check them out – and don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a table on the weekends….the place is busier than most probably realize, judging from the average look to the place.  If you go, ask for Melissa, and tell them Tanya and Erikka sent you.

Mom’s Cafe  

3108 Old Denton Road, Suite #112 / Carrollton, Tx. 75007

Phone:  972.492.0004

Tweaking our site

I’ve added a separate page in which to share my favorite recipes, after being asked by many friends how to make some of the dishes that I do.  There is now an About Me page and a new Favorite Recipes page.  Stop by, look around, take and use what you wish!

Mama Pita Mediterranean Grill (Plano, Tx.)

Finally, I have a few moments to sit down and write about this amazing little spot that we discovered quite by accident the other day.  I was craving hummus, and was actually on my way to Cafe Express, only I couldn’t find a parking lot near the darn place to save my life!  So after looping around the parking lot, I found one a few doors down – and right in front of Mama Pita Mediterranean Grill.  What?  Hey!  This place is new – I’ve never seen it before!  It looked very inviting, modern, and clean; and it wasn’t overly crowded since it was at the tail-end of the lunch hours.  AND….they were sure to have hummus!  So I was in, and in I went.

The menu was fairly easy to navigate, even for those who aren’t familiar with Mediterranean cuisine.  You start off with choosing your “mama”:  pita wrap, platter, or salad.  Step 2 is to decide what you will put in, or on, it:  dips, salads, and sauces.  Step 3 is to decide if you want meat(s) in, or on, it….or a vegetarian choice.  Pretty simple…one would think.  But it’s the CHOOSING that was difficult – it all looked so good!  So my wife and I started perusing the choices, and after about ten minutes were on our way to a very enjoyable lunch.

I chose a platter – not knowing just how much food would be piled on it!  I had not realized that we got to choose THREE dips.  I went with:  hummus (of course), tzatziki, and baba ghannouj.  The hummus was not lumpy at all, but rather creamy and not overpowering at all, like some hummus can be.  The tzatziki (which is made of strained Greek yogurt, diced cucumber, garlic, olive oil, and dill seasoning) was stronger than most might expect.  Upon looking at it, one might be deceived into thinking that it is some kind of sour cream dip, and then be shocked upon tasting the unsweetened flavor of the Greek yogurt.  By itself, the tzatziki is probably a bit strong for my taste; but when combined with pita bread or meat, it is a perfect compliment.  It is actually a very light dip, which I can appreciate when eating Greek or other Mediterranean food.  The baba ghannouj was definitely a new taste and experience for me.  When I saw the description read that it was made primarily from eggplant, I thought, “Well, I’ll try this – I LOVE eggplant!”  But oh, I was incorrect.  It doesn’t taste like eggplant parmigiana, which is my recipe of choice for the particular veggie.  Baba ghannouj is an Arab dish that is made from baked or broiled eggplant that has been mashed and mixed with other seasonings.  Yeah, that didn’t do much for me.  It seemed a bit bitter, and I didn’t detect much in the way of seasonings; so perhaps if it were seasoned more (with, for example, garlic or cumin), then my experience of it would be different.  This is not to say that I wouldn’t try it again.  Some of the other choices for dips are:  carrot hummus, red beet hummus, and garlic aioli.

So after choosing my dips, I had to choose salad(s), if I wanted.  I picked a simple salad of greens & tomatoes, topped with a little feta cheese and olive oil.  There were plenty of choices, I was just concerned with having way too much food.  Some of the other choices in the salad category were:  fattouch, tabbouleh, orzo, mediterranean seasoned beans, mediterranean pickles, mama’s potatoes, pickled eggplant, and rice & lentils.

There were three sauces available, if desired:  cilantro basil (I got this one – omg WOW!  SO good!), red hot chili, and tahini sauce.

For the last of my choices, I had to pick a meat/veggie for my platter.  I was torn between chicken and steak at first, but then they gave me a sample of their kafta – lamb & beef combination that is ground with herbs & spices and then grilled.  When I tasted the kafta, I was pleased to discover that it wasn’t strong lamb-y taste that you might find on a gyro; the combination with the beef made for a very pleasant, rich meaty flavor.  So I got the kafta for my platter, and was soon dipping it in everything:  the hummus, the tzatziki, etc.  The other choices for meat/veggie are steak, falafel (which is what my wife got and LOVED – to me, it tasted like a Greek hush puppy.  I was told it is like a vegetarian hush puppy…LOL), veggie, or “just salads.”

Right before reaching the register (you go through the line, make your choices, and then pay at the end), they had some dessert choices (which I declined).  There were cookies, and what looked to be fresh, homemade baklava – goodness it looked amazing.  They offer sodas, iced tea, bottled drinks, mint lemonade, beer and wine.  There were also kid’s meals available, and I noticed signs for free Wi-Fi as well.  The staff were all also very friendly, attentive, and happy to answer any questions or give samples of anything that we wanted to try.  Just before we left, one of the managers came to our table and asked how we liked everything and if it was our first time in.  He gave us each a business card which also serves as a coupon for free chips & dips to use in the future – score!  All in all it was a very enjoyable lunch, and quite the unexpected pleasant surprise.  The pricing is moderate, and I think that it cost about $18 for two of us to each have a platter (overflowing with so much food that we both took leftovers home) and drink.  I would definitely recommend Mama Pita’s to anyone who wants something outside the everyday burger or taco…check it out!

Mama Pita Mediterranean Grill (The Shops at Legacy)    

5800 Legacy Drive, Suite #C6 / Plano, Texas – between the Dallas North Tollway & Bishop Rd.

Phone:  972.403.1609 or 972.403.1215

Fax:  972.473.2384

Here we go!

Greetings and Welcome to The Epicurean Paparazza!

Allow me to introduce myself….I am Tanya Dodd-Hise – long time photographer of many things, lover of food and self-proclaimed foodie, and now food writer.  I will taste, sample, photograph, review, critique, and share some of my favorite (and not so favorite) foods and restaurants.  It could be here, in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area….or it could be anywhere – I DO tend to get around!  I will share highlights of dining and introduce my readers to the wonderful chefs who are behind the art – some you may know, and some you may not.  So come along, stop in often, share your thoughts, and try some of the foods for yourself!

Buon Appetito!