Saturday, January 29, 2011

How I got sold on a big plastic place mat


I've talked about place mats very quickly before- with Chick-fil-A's disposable ones that lay on a basket in our local store.
I decided in all fairness, since several of Foodie baby's little friends have a reusable place mat in their bags with them, that I would try it out.
I got the Kidoppotamus Tiny Diner place mat, emblazoned with nursery rhyme images like the cow and the moon.
After being able to tuck a small disposable mat in my bag at all times without it taking up much space (and therefore making me forget to use it a lot) a green roll of plastic roughly the size of a sugar cookie tube made a big dent in my already packed diaper bag.
The first trial was at Benjarong, where Foodie Baby didn't quite have the table space needed to keep a place mat.

OK, so not the best picture- we actually used the rubber suction thingies to go under the table, and the little food catcher worked somewhat- dinner was very messy. It was soon covered with crab rice and curry, so Foodie Baby thought the place mat worked just fine.
This is Foodie Baby scarfing down a gigantic kids plate (of course he didn't touch his vegetables) at Koko Beach in Oceanside, CA.
A couple things are really great about this place mat. First, it helps make a plate (that is a real plate, and a heavy one at that) harder to slip off a table for a little one- plates kind of 'stick' to it just enough.
And that little food catcher thingy? Not only does it catch some of the food that falls (the closer your little one is to the table, the better) but you fold the mat in and roll it up and tuck it in the food catcher and it's self-contained and ready to shove in the bag.
Negatively, not only does it need to be cleaned after each use, it takes up space in a diaper bag.
Also, The mat itself is a lot thicker than a disposable mat- therefore, it takes up more table space.
So there you have it, a new staple in my diaper bag for when we go out (and always there just in case we do!).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Benjarong Thai Cuisine in Redlands

Foodie Baby

There are fish on the wall here that I like to look at here. Last time we ate here was with my Uncle Patrick and Auntie Nicole. I wore my tuxedo for the special occasion (OK, it was a one piece onesie outfit thing but anyway, I decided to dress up for the occasion) and got bites of everything. Usually a lot of rice falls on the floor here! They are very nice about the mess I leave behind. I'm hooked on Thai tea now because Daddy gave me a sip last time.


Benjarong Thai Cuisine is the other Thai restaurant my family frequents on a regular basis. I've never eaten here for their lunch special, but several times for dinner served family style.
There is outdoor seating available (with heaters for the chillier weather right now, and I've seen live musicians on a weekend before playing) But I've always opted to sit indoors.
I would recommend calling ahead to accommodate a high chair- the last time we walked in and the hungry Foodie Baby was sequestered to a corner of the table besides Daddy (with just enough room for part of his mat to be laid on the table).
Again, since I am a yellow curry fan, Foodie baby has eaten that several times over rice. However, as he has grown, he has stepped up to have a variety of menu items on his plate crab fried rice, phad Thai, a nibble of panang, sweet and sour fish, cashew chicken or whatever else the group order.
It is always a carefully organized event to have all of us eating, since everyone orders a dish and then we all eat 'family style' sharing the platters while putting the servings on a plate in front of us. So we lose any storage space for the platters when Foodie Baby is there because anything he is not allowed to put his hands in cannot be put in front of him. So, an infant or toddler that is very grabby might not be a good addition to a family style meal.
As I've said before, Family style is a great way to expand a palate. I always pack a snack for Foodie Baby for after we sit down.
For an appetizer or a meal for a smaller kid, the peanut satay is good- chicken skewed and served with a peanut sauce to dip. For the less adventurous eaters, there is cashew chicken, beef broccoli, orange chicken- all delicious versions of take out Chinese staples, along with fried rice.
I've never tried ordering just steamed veggies here, since we have a variety of food at dinner time, but offering some veggies if you are eating a lunch or just a item or two could be very useful.
Phad Thai or phad see ewe are delicious noodle dishes I've eaten (although a glimpse on Yelp has someone recommending the drunken noodles).
And of course, a Thai tea and ice cream (again, I'm a huge purple yam fan, and so is Foodie Baby).
I've always had good service here too. When we ate here for my dad's birthday, the owner brought out a small dish of grapes for Foodie Baby to go along with his curry and sweet and sour fish (he had been charming her all night).
There are a couple fish aquariums on the wall, and a long glass wall aiming northward toward Redlands Blvd, so a seat by one of those might help entertain a wiggly toddler.
Seating is a mix of tables and booth seats on some walls.

No changing table
Stroller seating could be accommodated outside
Seating is mostly tables
Wooden high chairs available
No kid's menu
Milk, juice and sodas available

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mu in Redlands

Foodie Baby

I've been coming here as long as I can remember- over a year at least. I started off with puree Mommy brought and a stolen lick of coconut ice cream, nibbles of sticky rice and Cheerios, and on to yellow curry over rice, steamed bok choy and other veggies to dip in Mommy's salad dressing.
Not many mommies would let Thai restaurants be a habitual place to eat for a kid my age, but I'm sure glad! Especially because I can charm someone into purple yam ice cream for dessert and get to eat half of it.

To be perfectly honest and with full disclosure in mind I have been going to Mu for years- and before it was Mu, when the building housed Rama Garden. My grandparents know the owner well, and usually I am there as part of a family celebration or out to lunch with my grandmother.
And I've always loved it.
First, a note on eating Thai food. It's best served family style- pick multiple dishes (my family usually has everyone pick their own) with the big bowl of white rice (ask for brown if you want it) to go along with it. That way there is a variety of food on the table and everyone gets to try different things.
Feel free to ask questions about the menu- they're always prepared to answer questions from people that have no idea what certain dishes are, and when in doubt, just give them the number of the item you want (pronunciation is fun with Thai food).
For Foodie Baby, we haven't been to Mu for dinner since he has been eating solids for him to have a variety of their dishes. The last time we ate there was similar to most of our meals- a lunch out with Foodie Baby's great-grandma.
Foodie Baby got an order of steamed vegetables as soon as they took our drink order- I always have a Thai tea (which he gets sips of occasionally).
This is what you get when you ask for steamed veggies- it includes the bok choy, baby corn and other veggies. I didn't slice up Foodie Baby's veggies since he is getting very good with all of his 16 (!) teeth, but that is definitely an option.
Foodie Baby kept taking nibbles of the bok choy to decide if he liked it, and demolished the baby corn.
The sweet honey mustard dressing that is the house dressing is a new favorite of Foodie Baby's- broccoli disappears at a faster rate with it.
I didn't share my tom ka kai soup- it's a little too spicy in my mind for him when I'm already planning on sharing part of my lunch with him. It's usually with tofu, which makes the spiced coconut soup really good.
Foodie Baby has been eating yellow curry for months- it started with a tiny drizzle in his rice and ended with him shoving his fingers in my food and eating it that way (which I care not to repeat, it's pretty messy).
The yellow curry at Mu is very sweet- curry is a dish much like salsa at Mexican restaurants- I'd recommend trying it before sharing to check how spicy it is if you're not familiar with how that restaurant makes it.
I make a little pile of rice on his plate, drizzle some curry on that, and also slice up a couple pieces of chicken and potato (sometimes it's sweet potato) and let him have at it.
Purple yam (which really is a yam and not taro like often believed) ice cream sounds ridiculous but is really good. We asked for a scoop to share and it came out with three small spoons (perfect for a little one's mouth) and topped with several berries, all of which Foodie Baby devoured. It's a beautiful lavender color.

And enuogh about lunch- now more about the restaurant!

Timing- if you plan on being adventurous and eating out for Thai food for lunch, I recommend going early- Mu opens at 11 a.m. and by 12 or 12:30 there are business lunchers and other adults in the restaurant that may not be expecting the noise that comes with little ones eating out.
However, I have never had a problem with people in the quieter lunch spot- they often have a sense of humor about someone's loud appreciation for a good meal. 
For dinner- I'd say call ahead to shorten the wait time if they need to accommodate several people or high chairs, which are simple wood ones with a bar high enough for Foodie Baby to rest his feet.
The wait staff are almost over-accommodating- water glasses filled, dishes cleared away away from little hands and, in my experience, quick service.
Eating family style, if you have a crowded table, can be difficult if you have to keep a place setting completely clear for a toddler's eager hands, so I wouldn't suggest ordering for every person at the table to help keep room for an empty spot- family style is delicious but gets a table crowded fast.
There is no changing table in the bathroom, so be prepared for a trip out to the car. I wouldn't even bring s stroller in the front door, but a nice day could accommodate one outside with the patio seating.
There is no kids menu specifically - I don't even remember steamed veggies being on the menu but they were easily ordered. I would advice planning ahead to see what younger diners would accept- for someone who has never had Thai food, I would recommend the curry (if you like a little kick) or the pad thai. Ko-see-mee and fried rice can help make a meal for more picky eater.
For small ones that haven't had a large variety of food or spices I would recommend bringing along a banana or part of a meal to help keep them full and happy.
The lunch menu has a couple more mainstream options, including chicken piccata pasta and teriyaki chicken as well.

Stroller could be accomodated with outside seating
No changing table
High chairs available- mixture of chairs and booth seats
No kids menu
Beverages include thai tea and other specialties, water and sodas

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eating out with large group of children

This last weekend, I got to eat out at Cheesecake Factory (this one here) in Rancho Cucamonga.
A mom called ahead, and every few minutes a mom carrying a bag and a toddler appeared, a snack plate landing on the table before anyone could make a hungry sound.
Six of us successfully ate there on a Sunday! it was a blast and afterwards we played at the playground and rode the train, trickling away as nap times and other factors weighed in.
I had the quesadilla off of the breakfast menu, wanting to save my sweet tooth for cheesecake later. So Foodie Baby had his snack plate of bananas and bread (previously mentioned here) black beans, bites of tortillas, pico de gallo, and various nibbles from my breakfast.

There were several factors that led to the success of the brunch out...

*First, there was an adult for every kid. Seating was odd, since the Cheesecake Factory mostly has booth and benches- we were seated at a long table with half of it a bench seat, so the kids could only be in the aisle. To help condense the group, I actually sat across from Foodie Baby, and he with a mom on each side. I did a lot of the work, but the other two moms were very helpful to have there! If he hadn't of been a very good boy that day, the arrangement might not have worked.
I also played with another one who was on the bench seat by me while his mom talked and helped keep him from climbing the table.
*We ate early. Cheesecake Factory opens at 10 am on Sundays. That made it more of a snack for the little ones, but also put it far enough away from nap time there were no tired meltdowns. The restaurant was also quiet, so not only did we have a lot of waiter attention, but errant toys would not be an issue to neighboring diners. There were also less people to care is someone shouted in their high chair.
*Eating kids are happy kids. Entertained with bread from a bread basket, a packed snack, or ordering an appetizer as soon as possible for them to share... whatever works. The snack plates made some of them happy the entire time we ate.
*We had a good waitress. She made sure the snack plates were there when everyone was seated and helped clear plates as they were emptied or condensed them.
* We enjoy the adult and baby company. Foodie Baby happily got attention from other moms while I played with another one. If I had been there just to talk with the other moms (which is always nice as well, and we had some nice conversations) it wouldn't have worked as well.

It worked with these factors, but seating wise Cheesecake Factory is not the best option for a group with many high chairs with the many booths in the restaurant.

Any other tips for eating out with a bigger group and multiple kids? Any restaurants you find success with? Why?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dapper Snapper winner announcement!

Thank you everyone who entered!

Out of 26 eligible comments...

As picked from


Jenni L said...
Like Dapper Snappers and commented.. I hope I win one so I can try this out, I've heard great things.
Don't forget, if you didn't win, Kissui in Redlands sells Dapper Snappers, or check out


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How do you leave the table?

Foodie Baby

Sometimes the waiters leave the bill near me, so I grab it.
Everyone thinks its funny, but really, I'd pay.
Don't even have an allowance though, so I'd have to hit up Daddy for a few bucks.


Eating out with a messy little one leaves me feeling more considerate for the poor bus boy that has to come clean up the aftermath than pre-baby.
Pieces of crayon bitten off and spit out.
Chicken, Cheerios and pieces of broccoli on the floor.
Ice cream dripped along the table along with the splashed of water from a jubilant sippy shake. Plates stacked in an effort to keep them out of greedy hands who would otherwise throw the contents at the elderly couple sitting nearby.

How do you deal with the aftermath of a meal out with your baby or toddler?
Do you attempt to clean up under the high chair?
Do you shake out the chair cover in the restaurant or outside in the parking lot?
Do you bus the table, wiping up water and food before grabbing the diaper bag and bill?
Or do you just leave the table as is and tip a couple bucks more?

Personally, I try to straighten up a little, although I learned not to worry about under the high chair from overly-nice waiters dashing to offer help or stop me from trying to keep mashed Cheerios from their carpet.
Unless the table looks like a couple of adults ate there, I always up the tip a bit more. Especially when they've gone out of their way to get more juice, cut the chicken into manageable bites for my son, or even making sure they don't place food directly in front of him make me appreciative of their service.

So hello and welcome! to my newest readers and a question- what do you leave behind when you go out to eat?
Please answer below in the comments!