happy food: MOD Pizza (review)

Ever since I surprised L with a private pizza making class at Sur La Table for his birthday, we have been making pizza at home. Nothing beats a fresh, hot just-charred thin crust pizza, but when you don't have time to make the pizza dough and let your pizza stone pre-heat in a 450 degree oven for one hour, sometimes you just have to do takeout. We haven't been overwhelmed by any pizza in our area, especially after we were spoiled by homemade pizza.

Recently, however, we tried MOD (Made on Demand) Pizza. It's a newer concept, sort of a quick-serve, catered to you pizza experience set in an industrial space. The best part (aside from the taste) was that the price for the pizzas were $7.87 across the board. Are you a minimalist with just sauce, cheese and basil or do you load on the toppings? Either way, it's $7.87 per pizza.  L ordered the Calexico (mozzarella, gorgonzola, chicken, jalapeƱos, hot buffalo sauce and MOD red sauce).  I ordered my own creation - white sauce with tomatoes, gorgonzola and pesto. Literally, we had no more than ordered at the counter, filled our drinks and grabbed a table and our orders were ready. Both pizza were phenomenal. When I took a bite of mine, I may have orbited to Italy for a moment. It was hot (without burning the roof of my mouth), bursting with basil, cheese and tomato flavors and the thin crust was perfectly crisp and just slightly charred. L's was so good, he barely said a word while eating other than "Yeah, we're coming here again."

L and I both agreed that MOD is now our go-to pizza place. There is something to be said for ordering a meal and not being upcharged because you want to add gorgonzola. MOD is quick, fresh, delicious pizza that tastes like a nice old, Italian grandfather just made you his favorite pizza in his family's 400 year-old brick pizza oven in his garden. This is happy food.

MOD restaurants are located across the United States. Here's the list of locations. Have you tried MOD? What did you think?

how to: stop an attacking robin (and save his life)

Our deck looks like a disco. It didn't always. It's not exactly the look we were going for.

It started with a thump.


Thump. Thump.


Underneath my desk, my dog my dog was curled up, dreaming.  She woke from her sleep, looked in the direction of the noise and looked up at me. "Let's go see what that is, buddy," I said to her as we walked towards the kitchen.

There it was. A robin, a little disoriented. He was shaking its head side to side on the deck, in front of the sliding doors. He saw us, flew away in a circle and came right back, barreling full speed ahead  into the sliding glass door. I opened the door and the dog and I stepped outside.  Everywhere on the deck, on the railings, on the floorboards, on the furniture were piles of dark purple bird excrement--lots of it. We saw him, sitting in the tree, staring at us. We stood there for a moment, soaking in the rare Seattle sunshine and stepped back inside, amidst a little pile of fluffy feathers.

Thump. Again and again, he flung himself at the sliding doors.

I sat at my desk and started searching "robin flying into window." It turns out that we weren't the only ones dealing with this issue. Every spring male robins protect their mates, nests and eggs. It's a short period but during this time, they will make every attempt to thwart competitors advances. What our robin was doing was seeing his reflection in the window. They don't give up so they will repeatedly make every attempt to get the challenger to fly away. I read the remedies:

- Try soaping your windows with swirls from a bar soap
- Cover your windows (on the outside) with sheets of cardboard to block his reflection
- Place reflective decals of falcons or hawks on the windows
- Cut strips of aluminum foil and tape them to the windows
- Print out a picture of the face of an attacking cat and stick several of them to the window
- Get a cat

We soaped the windows. Didn't make a difference.

We went to Wild Birds Unlimited and bought reflective hawk decals. Didn't make a difference. At Wild Birds, the bird expert did tell us that if we don't fix this problem, the male robin will keep attacking his reflection until he is bloodied and possibly dead.

We attached strips of aluminum foil to the windows. (This experiment caused L. to burst into laughter when he got home from work. "Are we in danger from aliens?" he asked.

We printed out attacking cat faces and taped them to the windows. Nope. Didn't make a difference except to scare the hell out of the dog and I.

We didn't get a cat. We didn't attach cardboard to cover the sliding glass doors.

Here's what we did do and it worked:


L went to a party supply warehouse and bought silver mylar party streamers. On Saturday, we attached several sets of streamers to the beam across the deck and let the wind blow. Problem solved. It's now Tuesday and it seems that the softly blowing silver streamers distract him enough to not fly through them and it breaks his focus on the windows. There's no bird excrement, no feathers, no blood. A big win for shiny silver party streamers. Now, our robin can enjoy his time with family, rather than dealing with his big, bad, mean reflection all day.

We have one little problem though. Early this morning as I was doing a sun salutation in the sunshine,  I saw two crows sitting on a branch mesmerized by the shiny silver strings. I think I saw the female's thought bubble say "You know, our nest would look pretty fancy in silver. Darling, think you could make it so?"

happy food: trader joe's falafel

Last Thursday was a busy day of back-to-back meetings and by 6pm I hadn't even thought of dinner. Before heading out to the market in the rain,  I took a quick look in the freezer and saw the frozen falafel I had bought on my last trip to Trader Joe's.  I always keep canned chickpeas and fresh lemons on hand so in less than 30 minutes we were enjoying a Middle Eastern nosh of falafel, hummus, pita and tzatziki sauce by the fire.  Trader Joe's comes to the rescue. Again.

How was the falafel? Well, there's a little Mediterranean place in Kirkland right by the water, that we love. Trader Joe's version didn't taste exactly like that fresh falafel there but it was delicious. It filled that need for comfort food on a cool, rainy night.  The falafel balls were a little dry but topped with tzatziki sauce, they had a creamy, fresh finish (thanks to the cucumber and dill). The directions did list microwave instructions first so perhaps cooked in the microwave rather than the stove might make them a little more moist.

Nutritonally, they don't score well. At 320 calories, 19 grams of fat and a whopping 490 grams of sodium for three falafel balls, it does not qualify as health food. There are 6 grams of fiber, however, which make it filling. In fact after three each, L and I were both comfortably full. Considering how easy falafel is to make (and freeze), when I want falafel again,  I'll be trying this recipe from Mark Bittman next. However, in a pinch, Trader Joe's falafel made our happy food list.

Trader Joe's falafel can be found in the frozen section.

happy food: wine and tacos at qdoba

If the question is "Do you want to go out for Mexican?" The answer is always yes. Ideally, we would be at a little place by the beach where the Baja tacos and ice cold beer with lime can be enjoyed while   looking out over the water. But Boston or Seattle, L.A. or Orlando, there is always that Mexican joint that knows exactly how to make the perfect guacamole and whose tortilla chips are perfection.

I discovered a new favorite place. Last week I stopped by the new Qdoba Mexican Eats for an event celebrating their new Seattle location near University Village. On a rainy and cold day, after a long day, guacamole, chips and beer were a welcome start. L and I are guacamole enthusiasts. Qdoba's guacamole (made on location each day) is bright, creamy and fresh. Bonus:  Qdoba doesn't charge extra for guacamole or queso added to any entree. Nice touch.

The day was so cold and damp that I spent most of the it shivering in meetings. Soup seemed ideal.  I started with the loaded tortilla soup (vegetarian) which can easily be a healthy option by leaving out the crispy tortilla, cheese and sour cream. The soup was hearty and next time I'll get it without the extras. It stands well on its own.

I followed with the Bohemian Veg Knockout Tacos (shredded cheese, black beans, corn salsa, guacamole, salsa verde, minced onions, cilantro and cotija cheese). Often, since I don't eat meat, I find that vegetarian entrees are an afterthought. Not this taco. It's hearty, fresh and filling. I brought home the Two Timer Knockout Timer for L and he loved this take on a pulled pork taco.

A note on the beer and wine. At this location they served canned wine from The Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery as well as local draft beer from Dru Bru, Georgetown  and Hilliard's. I tried the Schwarzbier from Dru Bru which had a nice citrus finish that paired well with the guacamole and chips. The White Wine from Infinite Monkey Theorem (pineapple/peach/papaya notes) aligned well with the Bohemian Veg taco. It was perfect.

In addition to the new bold flavor menu, if you visit Qdoba (600+ restaurants in 47 states), you'll also see that they've updated their restaurants. It doesn't feel like a fast food restaurant.  (The music, by the way, is actually pretty great too. Kudos to the music programmer. )

I loved the new Qdoba. The environment was relaxing and comfortable, the price points were fair and the food was hearty and fresh. It's happy food. In fact, we're going back again tonight.