Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Sonoran DogWe’ve tried a Sonoran Hot Dog or two in the Phoenix area before but after seeing all the tv shows on El Geuro Canelo, I made it part of my mission to check it out while down in Tucson.
What I like about this place is that they have a small menu that focuses on a handful of items that they do well.  Carne asada burritos/tacos/tortas/caramelos, Sonoran Hot Dogs, and some Mexican-style beverages (aguas frescas, horchatas, cane-sugar Coke bottled in Mexico, that sort of thing).
I stuck with the Sonoran Hot Dogs and got a few to go for myself, including their Sammy, a Sonoran Hot Dog but with 2 bacon-wrapped hot dogs instead of just one.  Without diving in too much on what’s in a Sonoran Hot Dog, just keep in mind that it’s loaded… kind of like a Chicago-style dog.  Bolillo roll instead of a hot dog bun, hot dog wrapped in bacon, then filled with a ton of condiments including beans, mayo, mustard, tomato, and green salsa.
What makes El Guero Canelo great is their condiment/salsa bar.  Cebollas (grilled green onions), grilled jalapenos, red salsa, green salsa, pico de gallo (solid), avocado crema, radish, and limes.
The verdict – this place is solid.  Cheap dogs (a little more than $2 each, a little more than $3 for the sammy) and a quality condiment/salsa bar.  If they were open 24 hours a day, they’d make a killing with the drunk food crowd on weekends.
What am I trying next at this place?  Their carne asada burrito.  I saw someone take it back to their table and it looked like a nerf football.  You think Chipotle makes big burritos… that’s childs play.  I can put two of them down as a snack.  The burrito from El Guero Canelo looked significantly larger than what you get at Filiberto’s as well.
Until next time, do yourself a favor if you’re in the Tucson area to grab a dog from this place.  Especially if you need it to soak up some of that booze in your belly.

Lumihai BeachWhen this post goes live J. and I will be lying on a beach in Hawaii. We have 7 days and nights of relaxation planned or not planned as the case may be in Kauai. Though we don’t have any activities planned, besides lying on the beach, we do have our food plans well and truly under control.

As I have mentioned previously, J. is more often than not in charge of our eating arrangements when we travel. He researches, reads, studies and discusses all the possibilities. He has been responsible for finding some of the most unique, out of the way, hole in the wall, restaurants/foodtrucks/shacks that we have ever been lucky enough to try. He is always organized for our trips but when it comes to Kauai he has taken it to an entirely new level!

Here is the evidence – THE SPREADSHEET!

THE SPREADSHEET

Puka DogA comprehensive document, organizing possible food choice by local. It details opening hours, location, whether they take cash only or credit card and possibly most importantly what kind of cuisine they serve. We have choices of traditional Hawaiian plate lunches, poke, seafood, burgers, Japanese and who knows what else. He has found us so many to choose from there is no way we will get to all of them!

We went to Kauai back in 2009 and discovered some amazing places to eat. They have made it Mark's Placeonto the spreadsheet, along with some of J’s new discoveries. The places I am looking forward to revisiting are Shrimp Station, Puka Dog, Mark’s Place and Hamura’s Saimin and a few others. The shrimp at Shrimp Station were delicious and amazing. I had never tasted anything like the hot dogs from Puka Dog. Mark’s Place and Hamura’s Saimin were just cool, low key locals joints.

Shrimp StationOf course J. has found us a whole new  group of places to try out. When we travel we try to stay away from the touristy places (although Puka Dog is definitely a popular destination) and go where the locals eat. Kauai, the second time around will be no different. I’m really looking forward to trying out Koloa Fish Market and also Chicken in a Barrel but there are so many other delicious options who knows what we will actually eat!

Hamura's Saimin

I’m sure as you are reading this we are either lying on a beach or eating some fabulously tastyfood! Stay tuned for Live from Kauai posts later this week!

ALOHA!

FatooshOn my final day in Washington DC, I managed to sneak away for a delicious and yummy lunch. The conference I was exhibiting at had quietened down, people were leaving and I had a long night of travelling home to Phoenix ahead of me… a hearty delicious meal (and a couple of beers) were definitely called for.

Recommended by fellow blogger Alina and some great people I met at the conference, Zaytinya was my destination. Only 2 short blocks from the hotel that I was exhibiting in, I wandered down for a late lunch.

Mythos Beer

Taking my traditional seat at the very big bar I was ready for a nice cold beer and some great food. I ordered my Mythos beer, a Turkish beer that I had never tried before and perused the menu. The girls I met at the conference had insisted I try the $25 Mezze Lunch. It was a 4 course meal with multiple choices under each course.

For first course I went with the Fattoush salad, a combination of tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper and radish. This had a delicious pomegranate vinegar dressing over it. Given the heat of DC, it was such a light, fresh and yummy start to the meal. The fresh pita bread they kept refilling throughout the meal was a great accompaniment.

ArayesSecond course was a difficult choice for me. I could have had any of the 4 choices but decided to go with the Arayes, a dish I had never heard of or tried before. These were stuffed pita breads, filled with grilled ground lamb and tahini on a bed of garlic yogurt. I don’t think it is possible for me to describe just how delicious this small plate of goodness was. Such flavor but so simple. I could have eaten an entire meal just of those. However, with 2 more courses still to go, I thought I shouldn’t order a second round. I ordered another beer instead.

Spanakopita

For my third course I decided to stay with something traditional, Spanakopita. This was flaky, melt in your mouth house-made phyllo pastry that was then stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Carefully rolled into a crispy, tasty roll and placed on a spinach puree. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. This was possibly some of the best Spanakopita I have every eaten. I couldn’t believe how perfect the phyllo was. I wanted to eat 6 of them, not just 1.

Apricots and yogurtI restrained myself and just sat back with another beer and waited for my dessert. I had chosen to go with the lighter of the 2 dessert choices, Greek Yogurt and Apricots. I actually didn’t read the description until after I had ordered it. It may have been the lighter of the 2 but oh my, did it sound delicious. A small cup came out, looking like a orange and white parfait. There were layers of muscat soaked apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet and pistachio powder. If I hadn’t have been in a public place I would have licked the cup clean! Delicious, light and refreshing – an excellent end to an amazing lunch!

I will go back to this place – I actually would go back to DC just for a lunch here and a dinner at St. Arnolds. My DC trip was great both professionally and culinary! I ate great food that had been recommended to me, found my own little gem on my wanders through the city and got to spend some time in one of my favorite cities on the East Coast.

When in DC next I recommend you try one of the great places I visited or perhaps you will discover a little gem of your own!

Tortino Pasta.jpgMy final night in Washington DC, I took a gamble and went to Founding Farmers, hoping that being by myself I could get a seat. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off. They were booked out and there was also a line out the door. Never mind, I had a back up.

On my walks around the neighborhood near my hotel I had spotted a small, Italian trattoria that intrigued me. Tucked into the basement of a brownstone, in amongst residences, Tortino just looked like the perfect neighborhood restaurant. Inviting, small and fingers crossed, delicious!

I took a seat at the bar to eat and also because it was still happy hour, I ordered myself a bellini (prosecco with peach puree). The bellini was delicious and I had to make sure I didn’t drink in a few seconds.

I chatted with the bartender about football (NFL… GO BEARS!) for a while and then asked him to recommend a pasta dish Bellini.jpgfor me. After making sure I liked seafood he suggested the pasta special. Handmade spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, mussels, and broccoli in a garlic butter sauce! I went with his recommendation!

While waiting for my food to arrive I sipped on a second bellini – I couldn’t help it, they were just too delicious!

My pasta arrived! A large bowl filled with spaghetti and a surprisingly huge amount of mussels. The pasta was good, al dente, just how I like it and how it should be. The mussels were perfectly cooked and smothered in the garlic butter sauce. The crusty bread was great dipped in the sauce. And even though I am not a big broccoli fan, I ate every bite.

This was a lovely, intimate little restaurant – it would be perfect for a date night. The food was good Italian comfort food and they had lovely, friendly staff who chatted to me and kept me company at the bar. Oh, and the bellinis were yummy.

I was happy with my random choice, even though it wasn’t Founding Farmers. I will go back to this restaurant next time I am in DC and will also hopefully make it into Founding Farmers too!

Mussels.jpgLast night I walked around downtown DC and worked my way towards another delicious dinner, recommended by Everyday Sarah Jane.

St Arnold’s Mussel Bar on Jefferson Street was my final destination and it was worth the walk. I arrived at a great, but small basement bar. There was a line out the door but the one benefit of eating alone is getting to skip the long line, and be seated immediately.

Though there are other delights on their menu I was always going to have mussels, it Pilsner.jpgwas just a matter of choosing what flavor to go with. In the end I chose to have the House Specialty, forgoing the Thai curry mussels and the Mexican inspired mussels. The specialty is Mussels St. Arnold’s – Mussels cooked in a house beer sauce with caramelized shallot, garlic and thyme and finally… wait for it…duck fat! Seriously, who cooks mussels in duck fat!

After ordering my mussels, my beer arrived. They have a fantastic selection of beers to choose from and I am sure if J. was here we would have made a night of it. When i say we, imean me and J. would get me home… Traveling alone I settled for a single beer, a Bavik pilsner. Yum!

Frites and bread.jpgThe mussels arrived accompanied by frites and bread… Carbs, seafood and duck fat – I was in heaven!

The frites were crunchy and perfectly cooked, not too oily. Dunking the bread into the beer sauce seemed incredibly decadent. The mussels themselves were perfect. The steaming cast iron pot was filled with plump juicy mussels, all open, which I think is the mark of a good seafood restaurant.

The broth was sweet and savory at the same time. Not oily or fatty at all. If I hadn’t Duck fat broth.jpgbeen bursting by the end of the meal I would have asked for the broth to go and had it as soup today. So deliciously good. They were some of the best mussels I’ve ever had.

It was a good thing I had a 2 mile hike back to the hotel to work dinner off. Thank you fellow bloggers, we’re two for two on restaurants! Being seated quickly also meant I got happy hour food prices with the mussels and frites costing less than $10!!!! Love it.

Friday night I am going to try Founding Farmers, I wasn’t able to get a reservation but thought I might try walking in, even though it is incredibly popular. I have a back up if necessary. Wish me luck!

Steamed dim sum.jpgFirstly, thanks to everyone who gave such great food suggestions for my trip to DC. I would need to stay here a few weeks to make it to all of them but unfortunately I only have 3 nights. I arrived into the city late this afternoon and have already been out to try the first of the 3 places I decided on.

Ping Pong Dim Sum was recommended by FreshDaily 101 We have a weakness for dim sum. I had to go to this place, just so I could send photos of the delicious food back to J. To make him jealous… Oh, and it is so close to the hotel. It is a really nice restaurant, not at all what the name suggests and tonight it was packed and energized for their Wednesday mojito madness. I stayed away from the mojitos but was ready for a good meal after having only a smoothie hours before back in Arizona.

Although the menu isn’t completely traditional, it still offered all of my favorites and Ping pong selection.jpgthen some. After perusing the menu, I decided on the Ping Pong Selection which gave me my favorites and a mix of their more unusual dim sum flavors. To accompany the dim sum I ordered a draft beer I had never seen before, yuengling lager.

The beer came out quickly and it was delicious, a nice accompaniment for dinner. The Ping Pong selection was 10 different dim sum for $20. A little more expensive than other dim sum but I think in the end it was worth the money.

My first plate came out with 3 pieces, a honey roasted chicken puff, a Vietnamese rice paper shrimp roll and a crisp potato cake. Not the most traditional but incredibly delicious. All three were very fresh and crispy. The potato cake was amazing and so crunchy on the outside but creamy inside. A really good start to the meal.

A little different.jpgThe remaining items all came out in a large steamer. I do love being presented food this way. They were all still steaming and looked delicious. I left my favorites until the end… Eating my way through a steamed sea bass dumpling, a chicken, pineapple and lemongrass dumpling, a crabmeat and prawn dumpling and a beef and cumin dumpling. They were definitely fresh and perfectly cooked to my liking. They were unusual flavors but I really liked them. The beef had Indian flavors to me and the sea bass was just amazing.

Finally I came to my 3 favorites and how I measure any dim sum restaurant… Har gua, seafood shu mai and a char sui bun. The first two were good, tasty and well made. The char sui bun was the final test. It was so very good… After years of eating these after nights out in Japan, they are still one of my all time favorite foods. The bun was light and fluffy and pork had such great flavor.

I was so pleased.

This is a different dim sum restaurant. If you are looking for traditional, it isn’t the place for you but I say live a little, try something different! This is a great place to do that… Pineapple, cumin, and potato in dumplings… Who wouldn’t want to try that… Plus some of the best steamed pork buns I have eaten.

Thanks again Fresh Daily 101. This was a wonderful start to my trip. Tomorrow night is St Arnold Mussel Bar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the big advantages of my job is that I get to travel. In the last few months I have been to Las Vegas, Charlotte and Austin… all for work. There will be posts about all the deliciousness I ate on those trips.

In the next couple of months I am going to Washington DC and Dallas for work and then on vacation to Hawaii.

With all this upcoming travel, I have a lot of food planning to do. This is usually J’s responsibility but he isn’t coming to DC with me, so it falls on my shoulders.

Ben's Chili Bowl

I have been to DC before and done all the sightseeing. Last time we were there  was around 3 years ago. We ate some great food on that

Capitol City Brewing Company – I don’t have any photos of the food we had here but it was good quality pub fare. Most importantly they had a large and delicious range of their own beers which were most enjoyable.trip!

Ben's Chili Dog

Ben’s Chili Bowl – From everything I hear, this is an institution in DC! We dragged our friend with the meat phobia here and even convinced   her to try one of the chili dogs. Telling her that President Obama had eaten here convinced her it would be ok. It was fantastic! It was my first chili dog and I probably will never have one anywhere near as delicious as this was. This place is an example of exactly the kind of food and place we love – simple, hole in the wall just doing what they do very well and deliciously!

The Dancing Crab – This was one of J’s discoveries when he was researching our trip. Being huge seafood lovers, it was a must and we weren’t disappointed. Giant trays of spicy crabs were brought Dancing Crabout. Dressed in our plastic bibs, tools in hand, we dug in and ate ourselves silly! Again, this is the perfect kind of place, out of the tourist areas with great service and food. This crab was unlike any I had eaten before – I might have to make a trip back to this place – if I can figure out how to get there!

Oyamel – If you have read any of our posts about Mexican food, you will be familiar with exactly what our thoughts on it are… if you haven’t read J’s entry about this topic. Oyamel is not our usual Mexican fare. It is pricey, fancy and more like a tapas restaurant then the hole in the wall, divey places we usual frequent. However, the Oyamel Tacosfood was good and it was our chance to take a friend out for their first Mexican restaurant experience in the US. We ate tacos, mole, yummy desserts and I can’t remember what else. It is a restaurant with an interesting concept combining Mexican food and tapas, with good service and food. I have to admit though that I still prefer my hole in the walls back here in Arizona.

So that was our first trip to DC! There were other places we ate, including a random Oyamel MoleBBQ place that none of us can remember the name of, but these were by far the best experiences we had.

I would like to have great food experiences on this next trip too. This is where I need your help and advice if  you know of any great places in DC. I will be staying downtown, close to the Convention Center and am limited to public transport and taxis…

Where should I eat? I can’t wait to hear your recommendations!

Grilled Qual.jpgJ. and I like to watch a local PBS show called Check Please, Arizona. It is a funny little show that reviews restaurants here in Arizona. We have discovered a few places from watching this show and have also written off quite a few.

A few months back we were watching, looking for places we could possibly take my parents when they came to visit and Rancho Pinot was reviewed. It is a little fancy for our usual tastes but the Wild West décor and some of the menu items caught our eye.

We do occasionally like to try out some of the fancier restaurants so we decided try it out to see if it was the kind of place we would want to take visitors. The restaurant is decorated with a giant cactus skeleton in the middle of the restaurant – who knew they had skeletons. The walls are then decorated with Southwest themed photos, painting and bits and pieces. All very quirky and different.  I thought that it was something different for visitors.

Anyway, to the important stuff… the food.

Scallops.jpg

To start we ordered the small plate of grilled quail with sweet corn polenta, sautéed greens and peach mostarda. This was delicious and we were hoping it would set the tone for the rest of the night.

J. order scallops for his main course. He had seen them on the TV show and they were one of the main reasons we went there… His plate came out with 3 diver scallops that had been mesquite grilled, on a bed of corn risotto with tomato broth and bacon-fennel relish. Doesn’t that just sound amazing!! It was a small serving and I knew it wasn’t going to be enough for him so I had ordered accordingly.

Berkshire Pork.jpg

Though there was nothing wrong with the dish J. wasn’t raving about it and considering this was the main thing he had wanted to try, it was a little disappointing. He was also still well and truly hungry after he had finished it.

Fortunately I had ordered the Berkshire Pork. This was huge and served with creamy polenta, green beans and a roasted tomato. The pork was tender and flavorful, the polenta was tasty. Thankfully there was plenty for J. to finish it off.

Since we were out on the town for the night we ordered desserts. J. wanted to try the Olive oil cake with meyer lemon curd, which was tasty. I had the Shaker Meyer Lemon Tart, which was different from other tarts I had tried, more like a lemon pie, with pastry on the top as well as the Olive Oil Cake.jpgbottom. It was yummy and tangy, as a good lemon tart should be.

I don’t like giving bad reviews, and this isn’t really bad, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the food or the service. I would never tell someone not to go here. You will get good food and good service and be in an interesting restaurant. Plus they have a really good wine list.

Unfortunately though for us, it wasn’t memorable and it certainly wasn’t worth the price we paid. The most memorable thing for me all night was the Arizonan wine I had with my meal! As you can probably tell from this entry we weren’t really impressed or disappointed… it was all just fine. Not what you want when you spend $100+ on a meal.

Lemon tart.jpgWhen we are going somewhere nice for a special occasion this won’t be at the top of our list, there are other places that are more memorable and places that we rave about that come before this. They do have seasonal menus which means we might go back some day and try a new menu and could be wowed!

However, this is just our opinion and what we like – maybe you will have a better experience and it will be exactly what you want.

Plus, where else can you get Wild West fine dining!

Chicken Fried Steak.jpgA few months ago, it might be more than a few now… we discovered a new café had opened right next door to our gym. We have some favorite breakfast places here in Phoenix but none close to us and on a lazy Saturday it would be nice to just be able to drive or walk around the corner and get a yummy breakfast.

When we saw Biscuits Café had opened, we decided it was worth giving it a try. Plus if it was good we could always stop in there after a weekend workout to undo any good we may have just accomplished.

We stopped in one Saturday and were surprised at how busy it was, we even had a short wait. Once seated, we studied the menu that was really quite big. It was a big menu considering that it is only opened for breakfast and lunch.

Considering that the place is called Biscuits you would imagine that at least one of us would have chosen biscuits for The meat platter.jpgbreakfasts but we didn’t! Of course not!

A quick aside, we still haven’t tried the biscuits at Biscuits but when my parents visited a few months ago they went here and were given a complimentary biscuit to try since being Australian they had never tried an American style biscuit before… They said it was delicious!

Back to the story…

J. ordered THE MEAT LOVERS PLATTER… of course he did! With that on the menu there was no chance of him ordering anything else. For $10.99 he got a platter loaded with ham steak, bacon and sausage links. He could then choose 2 eggs anyway, hash browns or red potatoes and biscuits, toast or pancakes. He went with fried eggs, hash browns and pancakes. What a mountain of food!

I went with CHICKEN FRIED STEAK… it seems so unnatural but I love this stuff. It was smothered in sausage gravy which was just unbelievable. This really isn’t something you find in Australia, the sausage gravy and we used to have crumbed steak growing up which is as close to chicken fried steak we can get there.

Side of Pancakes.jpg

I also had the same choices as J. and went with with fried eggs, hash browns and toast. The toast came with some delicious jam which I could have eaten by the spoonful. All of this for only $10.99.

We were really impressed with Biscuits. So much so that we have returned a number of times, taken friends, and recommended it to my parents. The food was incredibly tasty, the service was great – we had continuous refills, of my coffee and J’s ice tea, even though they were really busy. I think the food felt like it was made in someone’s home kitchen rather than a restaurant. Just good, delicious and unpretentious food.

We found out a little after our first visit there that it is actually a franchise with one other in Phoenix and then a few scattered around the US. If the others are anywhere near as good as this one, it is worth a visit!

20130721-190606.jpgI would never say that I am a beer connoisseur. I am nowhere near discerning enough to where that label! I am happy to pretty much drink any kind of beer, with little or no judgement. I do however have some beers that I don’t particularly like. Fruity beers often seem too sweet and less like a beer than I would like. Often I feel like I am drinking a soda or cocktail. I simply don’t believe in fruit beer!

J. isn’t really a fan of beer at all, occasionally he will have a beer and will always taste mine but I am well and truly the drinker in our relationship… I’m not complaining, after all that means I always have a happy designated driver.

We were out shopping on the weekend and I saw a six pack of San Tan Brewing Company‘s Mr Pineapple, pineapple wheat beer on special. J. had tried this on a visit to San Tan Brewery and had like it. San Tan is a small brewery and restaurant here in Chandler, not too far from our place. I have been there but had never tried the Mr Pineapple since it is a summer seasonal beer.

As an aside, the beers that I have tried at San Tan are excellent and we even took my parents there and Dad certainly enjoyed the beers he tried.

Anyway, we bought a six pack of Mr Pineapple and took it home. It was hot and humid here this weekend so a nice cool beer was perfect to go with our BBQ (Aussie Style not American style) dinner on Sunday night.

I was really pleasantly surprised by the beer. You can certainly taste the pineapple but it isn’t overpowering and just adds a little sweetness. The beer is definitely a beer, not a soda or cocktail and is incredibly refreshing.

If you happen to be in Chandler, Arizona definitely check out San Tan Brewery and try some of the beers and the food (which is also really good). If you are lucky enough to discover some of the beers in your local grocery store (try Wholefoods) pick up a few and give them a try… Mr Pineapple may just make a believer out of you too!