A pre-feast feast

Includes: Fonda y Birreria Jalisco, Raleigh, NC; Bali Hai, Raleigh, NC; and more   

Why did I eat out all three meals today knowing full well the excesses that tomorrow will bring? The short answer is: overnight fasting prior to blood work, very slight arm-twisting (really just a suggestion to abandon my brought-from-home lunch to join others for an outing) and a craving for a big plate of veggies after carb-loading today and just prior to the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

I had lunch today with workmates at Fonda y Birrieria Jalisco. (Sorry, no web site.) Or as Ben and Dan call it, the goat restaurant, because goat is served in a variety of ways.

A former co-worker introduced me to this delicious, authentic Mexican restaurant earlier this year. The menu is extensive, and everything I’ve tried so far has been great. (The single exception was the fish tacos. But I’ve got very high standards, still searching for someplace on the East Coast that equals Southern Calfornia’s Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. The ones served at Fosters in Cameron Village are my favorites in North Carolina so far.)

Today I enjoyed the Vegetarian Torta. (Forgot my camera again — thanks for the photo, Shanta.) It was a simple sandwich made delicious by the combination of ingredients that culminated in appealing colors, several distinct textures and great tastes. Here’s all it was: queso fresco, tomatoes, onions, pickled jalapenos, avocados and lettuce on really good, chewy bread. Perfecto. Leaving out just one of the ingredients — any one of them — would undo the whole thing. Especially the pickled jalapenos, whose piquancy made them the standout.

I ate the whole thing and I wasn’t even that hungry. Sigh.

After carby breakfast and lunch I just couldn’t face the pasta dish I’d planned to make tonight for dinner. Instead, I was craving a big plate of stir-fried deliciousness. Time for Bali Hai with my friend Sharon.

This unassuming (bordering on dive) restaurant has been around since I moved to Raleigh way back when. Its specialty is Mongolian barbecue. This is my kind of Mongolian barbecue place, not one of those colorful, souped-up hybrid restaurants with the gross (to me) raw meat chunks and crazy spices and sauces. Bali Hai’s bar is stocked with beautiful, crunchy vegetables and frozen shaved meats, just like the Mongolian barbecue I grew up with across the globe. (For some reason Mongolian barbecue is a favorite at Air Force officers’ clubs.)

I have rarely seen Bali Hai as crowded as it was tonight. At lunchtime it’s pretty packed, but nights are often pretty mellow. But not this pre-turkey-day evening. It seemed that plenty of other folks had my same stir fry craving.

Diners are charged per pre-cooked bowl full of food and I love to watch how Bali Hai’s patrons fill theirs. You see all kinds of different strategies. My favorite is the circle of fence pole-like frozen meat tubes arranged around the outside, filled with other goodies on the inside, all of it overflowing onto the plastic tray.

My two bowls were full of beautiful, bright vegetables. And canned pineapple tidbits, of course. To me, it’s not Mongolian barbecue without the morsels of sweetness they add to the mix.

For those of you who haven’t been, you fill your bowls with meats and/or vegetables, tell the cooks how you’d like it spiced (sweet and sour, spicy, curry or a combination — and a heat level between 1-10). Make mine combo, level 6, please.

The cooks fry up your meal on a huge, round grill, using these humongous chopstick-like tools to shuffle it all around. They deliver it to you hot off the grill with brown rice. It was exactly what I needed.

Bali Hai is not a romantic or upscale eatery by any means. But for delicious, healthy Mongolian barbecue at a great price, it’s the place to go. There’s one in Durham, too.

before topping

I’ve just finished my contribution to the Thanksgiving dinner I’m invited to: the very highly rated and recommended Taste of Home cranberry cheesecake. (Here’s the recipe on allrecipes.com.) It looks gorgeous — I’ll let you know how it turns out. (Update — the cheesecake was delicious!)

Happy Thanksgiving!

the finished deal

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About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
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4 Responses to A pre-feast feast

  1. Nancy says:

    Your cranberry cheesecake tastes as yummy as it looks in the photo!!

  2. Paige says:

    The cranberry cheesecake is as good as it looks. I got to take some home after a different Thanksgiving dinner, and as well-fed as I already was, temptation called. I had a sliver last night and can’t wait to have another breakfast-sized piece this morning!!

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