Treat Your Tastebuds to Taka

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I’d been wanting to check out Taka’s new spot on Cookman Ave in Asbury Park since their move there over 2 years ago. We were big fans of their location on Mattison and somehow they just fell off our radar. Well, I FINALLY got my chance this week, as a special treat for my birthday dinner and let me tell you… it will not be long before I am back again!

This spacious new location combines a contemporary Asian feel with traditional Japanese artwork and modern furnishings. The atmosphere is welcoming and the space is well laid out with a central bar area, plenty of seating areas for quiet conversation, a large main dining room and a great outdoor patio for the warmer weather. The lighting provides a calm feeling and the decor offers a bit of a zen quality – in other words, I loved it.

IMG_20160321_190223-1I recommend starting with one of their unique cocktails (I tried the Asbury Green Tea & my husband loved his Blackberry Margarita) or choose your usual favorite from the well-stocked bar. If you’re looking for sake, I think you’ll be impressed with their extensive selection. The menu is described as Asian-Fusion, and offers a wonderful variety of apps, sushi & delicious entrées.

The “Matsuri” was a perfect way to begin, with a sampling of Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon and delicious Guacamole served with homemade tortilla chips. The Miso Soup was also a winner, as was “my usual” – the Veggie Tempura.

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I have to admit, we always come for the sushi, but one of these days I’m going to have to break down & get an entrée because they all sound so good! On this trip, I stayed on course and discovered yet another wonderful new sushi item… The Beach Roll.  Screenshot_2016-03-23-09-49-46-1-1-1This one features tuna (I opted for the brown rice), rolled with hiyashi wakame (a seaweed salad), cucumber & crunch, and then topped with a perfectly spicy wasabi sauce.  It sounds fairly simple, but the combination was amazing and that one roll was all I needed after stuffing myself with appetizers!

Screenshot_2016-03-23-09-36-54-1As I mentioned, it was my birthday, so I was “nudged” by our very pleasant and helpful server, to select a dessert.  I’m a big fan of their Green Tea Cheesecake but was so full that I opted for the gelato, knowing that my son would gladly share.  He chose his usual Chocolate Overload (a dark chocolate delight) and I went out on a limb with the Black Cherry Pistachio, which turned out to be the perfect complement.  After a lovely performace of “Happy Birthday” by the accommodating staff, I blew out my candle & then rolled myself to the car – always the sign of a good meal. 🙂

 

Taka is located at 660 Cookman Ave in Asbury Park, NJ.
Check out their web site for hours, specials & more at http://www.takaasbury.com/

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An Ocean Grove Sunrise for St Patrick’s Day

I’ve been lucky enough to live a few blocks from the beach for over 20 years now, but somehow, I’ve never made it down to watch the sunrise… until this morning.  Thanks to the time change & an inability to sleep lately, this was my view this morning…

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So amazing!  You can bet I’ll be making an effort to get down here on a regular basis in the months to come… and I recommend that everyone makes this happen at least once or twice!

Homemade Hummus – Easy & Delish!

20151231_183132-1Hummus is a healthy, protein-packed snack that can be enjoyed as a dip, a spread or even straight off the spoon.  For years I purchased the Sabra or Cedar’s brand from my local grocer & it was great.  But once I found out how easy it was to make, I never looked back!

Chick peas (or garbanzo beans) are the main ingredient in hummus, but I’ve even substituted edamame or white northern beans for a different taste.

Tahini, a peanut butter-like paste made from sesame seeds, gives hummus its unique flavor, combined with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic & salt.  I usually add one additional ingredient to customize each batch… today it’s Greek Olives… and it came out amazing!

Here’s my basic recipe…

1 – 15.5oz can of chick peas

1 tbsp Tahini paste

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon

1 tbsp crushed garlic

Today’s Addition:  4 large Greek Olives (any type of olive can be used or substitute roasted red peppers, edamame, avocado, etc to customize the flavor)

Sea salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Dash of cayenne pepper

I use the Magic Bullet to make my hummus, but any small food processor should do the job.

Start with the chick peas.  I strain out about 1/4 cup of the liquid first, in case I need to thin it out at the end.  Then I dump in the full can of beans with the remaining liquid.

Continue adding the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  The final consistency is more of a personal preference to me… experiment with it and adjust your liquid ingredients accordingly.

That’s it!  See how easy?  Serve with toasted pitas, as a veggie dip or spread it on your favorite sandwich.  Keep in the fridge for up to a week & enjoy!

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Add Hummus to your favorite party platter… or eat this healthy plate as a meal!

 

Pura Vida in Pictures

 

20160130_172633Our Girls Getaway to Costa Rica was a complete success!  Perfect weather, an incredibly relaxed resort & the discovery of “Pura Vida” – the simple life at it’s best.

We really enjoyed the Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa, as it was a change from our usual “stock” all-inclusives.  The intimate atmosphere made everything so accessible… just a few steps from the pool, to the restaurant to the beach.  The service was excellent & the staff was friendly & knowledgeable, offering helpful advice on what to see & do.  We loved the open-air feel of the resort & enjoyed all of our meals & drinks outside in the beautiful, tropical setting.

For a full review of this resort, check out my latest article on Trip101.com:  “Discover Pura Vida at Costa Rica’s Flamingo Beach Resort”

But for the “Photostory” – just keep scrolling 🙂

I’m starting with my favorite thing to do on vacation…  Morning coffee on the balcony. Here it came with a great view & a strong Costa Rican brew.

Here’s our actual room from the inside & out.  Basic accommodations, but with everything we needed.  And our 2nd floor “Poolview” room was a winner as we could see both the pool AND the ocean – jackpot!

I loved heading over to the beach early in the morning and enjoying this long, beautiful stretch all to myself.  And I mean EARLY as the symphony of tropical birds had me up every day by 6am!20160130_0618302016-01-30 06.44.57

The sun rose from behind the resort, so the ocean lit up before the sand… so pretty to watch!

This the main Arenas Restaurant, with air-conditioned seating inside and this awesome screened-in patio outside, looking over at the beach.  Drinks & dinner were also available upstairs at the open-air, Sunset Lounge.
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We did make a few friends during our stay…  this guy crawled right up onto my chair to say hello one afternoon!PhotoGrid_1454433100894

Here are a few more shots from around the resort… As you can see, it’s all about the water.  The covered pool is for the kids – such a great idea!

We did venture out and took a Sunset Catamaran Cruise on the 47′ “Panache” – a beautiful boat, manned by a super fun crew.  We stopped to snorkel, had some snacks, enjoyed the complimentary cocktails and ended with an amazing sunset…

Speaking of sunsets… staying on the Pacific side of Costa Rica guarantees some breathtaking views every night.  These were taken as we walked down the beach to “Coco Loco” – a restaurant/bar that sits right on the sand.

Costa Rica is famous for its surf… Unfortunately the only wave I “caught” was this one, just as the sun was setting.

This really was a perfect destination… totally relaxing, friendly people and a great place to reconnect a little with nature.  The “Pura Vida” lifestyle certainly is amazing!

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Last but not least… for the Foodies:  Two delicious ceviches, fresh fish tacos (at the airport of all places) and my favorite cocktail – The Green Monster!  Cheers!!!