I am so tempted to come out of retirement and do a review on Amy’s Baking Company.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen the carnage:
I am so tempted to come out of retirement and do a review on Amy’s Baking Company.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen the carnage:
For the longest time, I had hoped that everything would turn around and I would be back at food blogging, searching out restaurants, snapping photos, and writing my long screeds about the food I was shoveling in my mouth.
However, I would be less than honest if I did tell you that I simply have stepped away from this labor of love for a variety of reasons which I am sure are of no interest to you.
Oh, who the hell am I kidding?
To be very honest, here are the top reasons this will be the last entry on Feasting on Phoenix:
1. I got burned out. That is by and large the main reason it is time to close up shop. At one point, I was posting weekly. Then, I got married to the most incredible man on the face of the planet and found a better love than of food.
2. The economy. My job was hit hard by the 2008 crash and I suffered a long line of pay cuts and furlough days and, at one point, was taking home less pay than I was in 2006. That and the cost of gasoline and food just made regular restaurant visits a problem.
3. Food blogging corruption. This is the one that hurts me the most. The food blogging community has been taken over by people willing to accept payola for writing a good review or a bad review of a competitor. There was a recent NY Times article about people putting ads on Craig’s List offering to write a good review for the cost of the meal plus a wad of cash. It is nearly impossible to tell who has been more than willing sell their reputation and their souls for 1 oz. of caviar. I don’t know how many offers I got of payola since I started Feasting in Phoenix, but it has been several, and all of the people who offered it and all of the people who chose to accept it should rot in Hell.
4. Everybody’s doing it. I don’t think I am the only food blogger who got burned out. Most of the links on my sidebar connect to food bloggers who haven’t written in anywhere from six months to a year. They all have their reasons, but I would venture to guess it is burnout and the economy.
5. Trolls. The internet bullies were in full force during the tenure of this blog. Everything from threats of violence to being called a “fag” graced my mailbox. And all because of a food blog.
So, the time has come to simply close the blog (although I will leave the archives up for the rest of the year).
I want to thank all of you for reading my thoughts on the various restaurants in the Valley of the Sun and beyond. It has truly been an honor and a privilege.
But, I mostly want to thank the wonderful people who put up with me during this experiment: J. the Husband, Madge, Boris, Dad, Mom, Tim and Tara, Eric and Nora, JK The Cosmic Jester, my friend Winedubar, and a host of others. You are great friends and dining companions.
So, to all of you, I simply say, the Feast is now over.
Founder, Feasting in Phoenix
Several weeks ago, Dad has surgery and then followed a litany of complications that involved Emergency Rooms, Urgent Care Centers, Specialists and a very patient family. At long last he was pretty much back to normal when I decided to take him out to dinner. Mom had been working on her Asian cooking skills so Dad, shockingly, decided he wanted something other than Thai food.
I had heard that a new BBQ place in Old Town Scottsdale had opened and knowing that Dad loved him some BBQ, I drove him over to Big Earl’s BBQ in Scottsdale, just right off Scottsdale Road on First Avenue. As fate would have it, we got a spot right on First Avenue in front of the restaurant.
Upon walking in, we were immediately greeted by a cheerful server and a manager. We were escorted to a four-top table toward the back past the bar. Only moments later, we were met by our server who asked us if we wanted any beverages. Dad and I each ordered a Diet Coke ($2.00) and I also requested a water. Dad was still trying to decide what he wanted, so our server disappeared in the back to get us drinks.
When she returned we were presented with Mason Jars filled with our drinks. We loved it. Mason Jars are great for drinks. But, we were more interested in getting some food, so we placed our order. We decided to start with the Southern Style Sausage Balls with Hot Mustard ($5.99) and the Rock Shrimp and Buttered Georgia Grits ($7.99). This would be followed by the Pulled Pork Sandwich with a side of Five Cheese Mac’n ($7.99) for me and the Texas Brisket Sandwich with a side of Raleigh, NC Cole Slaw ($8.99) for Dad. We also decided to try a couple of additional sides. Dad wanted the Hand Cut French Fries ($3.99) and I wanted to try the Citrus County Florida Collard Greens ($3.99). Our waitress told the appetizers would be out shortly and departed.
While we waited, Dad said he really liked the interior and I agreed. It was a classic BBQ Honky Tonk set up with lots of Country/Western music, license plates on the wall, and butcher paper for table clothes. We could tell the place was new by the scent of sawdust wafting in the air. It was quite comfortable.
The first appetizer to hit our table was the Southern Style Sausage Balls with Hot Mustard. Nestled in a paper-line basket, six medium sized sausage balls surrounded a small ramekin of sweet, hot mustard. Two large toothpicks were also included. We each tried one and loved the flavor. The problem, however, was that they had been overcooked and ended up coming out tough. It was somewhat off putting and I wish a gentler hand had been handling the cooking because the flavor was enticing. The sweet, hot mustard, on the other hand, stole the show. It was excellent. Bold and pungent, we loved the flavor mix and the contrast to the salty sausage. I would get these again, but would be worried they would come out overcooked again.
Next up were the Shrimp and Grits. A large soup bowl filled with rock shrimp, grits and a silky smooth butter sauce graced the table. We grabbed our spoons and dove in. Oh my! It was heaven. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the grits were incredibly creamy. The butter sauce was like liquid candy and the combination of all three had us lapping up every atom of the dish. It was phenomenal. This was one of the best dishes I have had in Phoenix metro in quite some time. Honestly, the dish would a perfect – and addictive – lunch served with a small salad and some bread. While certainly a heart stopper of a dish, we loved it and found it to be the best thing we had all evening.
We had just finished fighting over who would get the honor of licking the bowl of the Shrimp and Grits when our sandwiches arrived. My Pulled Pork Sandwich with Five Cheese Mac’n was served in a plastic basket lined with a red tissue paper. The Five Cheese Mac’n was served in a small soup crock. The sandwich itself was a mix of pulled pork and a dollop of the cole slaw on a roll. Luckily, I had a choice of sauces for my sandwich: the Original BBQ sauce or the Sweet and Spicy. I cut my sandwich in half and applied each to one half of the sandwich. I got ready to pick up the half with the original sauce on it when… UGH. For whatever reason, the kitchen decided to put very moist pork on top of a thin bun bottom and the results were pure mush. I could barely pick up the sandwich because the bun, along with the tissue paper liner, were soaked and falling apart. I was able to turn my sandwich over and handle it that way, but the mushy bread was completely unappealing. That was sad considering that I really liked the interior of the sandwich. The pulled pork was flavorful, tender, and (obviously) juicy. The vinegar based slaw was a great addition and the Original BBQ sauce was very good, although I will admit that the Sweet and Spicy BBQ sauce is much better. Unfortunately, I couldn’t escape the fact that the bread was just horrible. At the very least the bread should have been fully toasted to prevent saturation.
The Five Cheese Mac’n was very good. It was rich and creamy and the pasta was perfectly cooked. I also liked the fact that it had a spicy edge to it. I had no complaints about it.
Dad’s Texas Brisket Sandwich was quite appealing with its slice of brisket which had a nice pink hue in the center. Unfortunately, Dad had the same issue with the bread that I did. Still, he did say that it was some of the best brisket he had had in many, many years. He found it to be hearty, tender and not overcooked, which he claims is usually the case when he gets brisket elsewhere. Dad also said that he was “okay” with the Cole Slaw but likes creamy slaw, so that wasn’t a big winner for him (but I did enjoy the slaw myself).
The side that Dad chose was the Hand Cut French Fries. They arrived in their own basket and it was a huge portion. The fries were piping hot and not at all greasy. We loved the crisp exterior of the shoestring fries as well as the fluffy interior. The seasoning was spot on and we loved them, but the portion was quite large. My standard for fries is whether or not they would make a good Poutine. In this instance, the answer was a solid yes.
My additional side of choice was the Collard Greens. I liked the dark green leaves peppered with bits of pork and served hot. I seasoned them with a little black pepper and dove in. What I was not expecting, however, was the fact that the greens had been left in their full leafy form. I pulled my fork out with what I assumed would be a bite of greens and ended up with a collard leaf about seven inches long. Um… okay. Upon further inspection, I noticed that they were all full leaves. So, I grabbed my knife and started hacking away at the jungle to bring it down to manageable sized, but that endeavor proved to be very cumbersome because the bowl holding the greens was not really large enough to facilitate cutting the greens. I did like the taste and the spicy kick, but I was perplexed as to why these leaves weren’t cut before service or even during cooking.
When we finished our meals, we were stuffed. We requested our check and the total was $46.50 including tax. Dad and I both thought this was a very good bargain. Overall, we both agreed that we would return to Big Earl’s. We did see platters of the ribs go by and we were tempted. We also loved, loved, loved the Shrimp and Grits and enjoy the meats on our sandwiches. However, we were still scratching our heads over the bread and greens. Service was very good and we appreciated the manager stopping by to ensure we were enjoying ourselves.
So, we got back in the car and headed home thinking of Shrimp and Grits and Brisket and Fries. Dad was all but giddy.
It was nice to see him getting back to his normal self.
Big Earl’s BBQ
7213 East 1st Avenue
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Dress: Casual. Botox not necessary.
Hours: Sunday through Saturday – 11 AM to 10 PM (although often open later on weekends).
Notes: Parking available on First Avenue or in the small lot to the immediate West of the restaurant.
Alcohol: Full bar (Happy Hour is Monday through Friday – 11 AM to 6 PM).
It had been a while since I got a chance to dine with Eric from “Eric Eats Out,” another Valley food blog. We had done a joint review of Havana Cafe back in 2009 and J. and I ran into him and his wife and family at the Chompie’s in Paradise Valley Mall, but other than through Twitter or email, we hadn’t had a chance to get together for a meal. We finally got a chance and ended up at Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana at the Borgata in Scottsdale.
Eric had good things to say about the place and Pomo had been certified as serving authentic Neapolitan style pizza from Verace Pizza Napoletana Americas. So, we met at the entrance to Pomo and were immediately escorted to a table/booth combination and handed menus.
The interior was spacious, open and subdued with black and wood tones throughout and lots of indirect lighting. The noise level was a bit on the high side, but nothing that was crushing to our conversation.
Eric was hankering for one of the Paninis on the menu, but was told they only serve them at lunch. Eric was heartbroken, but he took it in stride and decided to have a pizza. After reviewing the menu for a bit, we had made our decisions. When the server arrived, she was very engaging and we could tell she really was very keen on the food that Pomo creates. She took our drink order. I had a Diet Coke ($2.50) while Eric had an Iced Tea ($2.50) and a glass of Chianti ($9.00).
Moments later, our drinks arrived and we were ready to order dinner. Eric and I decided to split the Romana Salad ($8.95), the House version of a Caesar salad. Eric went with the Don Alfonso Pizza ($14.95) and I went with the Parma Pizza ($16.95).
We didn’t wait very long before our salad arrived. It was a sizable portion for two and it looked great with all of the shaved cheese sitting on top of the greens. We each took a couple of spoonfuls for our plates and dove in. We both immediately declared that this salad was boring. The taste was completely subdued on all counts. While the greens were crisp, they lacked any flavor and the dressing was so mild I doubt even doubling the amount would have changed anything. The menu listed the ingredients as Romaine Lettuce, Home Made Croutons, Parmigiano Reggiano, Black Pepper, and Sea Salt but I was trying to find the seasoning on this salad. Even the cheese was one dimensional. Eric said it was mundane and I was particularly disappointed because a Caesar Salad – even in a House version – should have a bit of a tang to it and some sharp flavors. This just underwhelmed and I was hoping this didn’t indicate how the pizzas were going to be.
Although we both gave the salad a big “meh,” we were very pleased when our pizzas arrived. Eric’s Don Alphonso Pizza looked delicious with its slightly charred crust, silky white mozzarella, and slices of salami and Italian sausage. The bits of roasted red pepper also sparkled on the pie. Eric dove in with a knife and fork and offered me a small slice. He said he found the crust to be nicely chewy as well as having a great flavor. He said the toppings “tasted of quality” and said there was nothing second rate about his pizza on any level. I agreed with his assessment. The pizza was fabulous. It was salty, savory and the roasted peppers added just enough sweetness to balance out the flavors. It was stellar in every way.
My Parma Pizza was very attractive. A large pie with a blistering crust was cover in a thin layer of tomato sauce, slices of mozzarella cheese, Prosciutto, plenty of Arugula, and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. It was a feast fit for a king. I also headed for the knife and fork and attacked my pizza. It was fantastic. The crust was spot on and the ingredients were substantial and delicious. The arugula was very fresh and crisp and added a wonderful peppery dimension. I was very pleased that they didn’t skimp on the toppings. There was plenty of Prosciutto and cheese. I offered Eric a slice, but he declined saying he had had the Parma before and enjoyed it. I had a great time savoring this pizza and would have it again with out a doubt.
As we finished our meals, Eric ordered the Regina Margherita Pizza ($11.95) for his wife who was at home tending to some sick kiddies. So, we chatted while we waited for the bill and the pizza to go. Once both arrived, the total was $72.78 including tax which covered two drinks, a glass of wine, a large salad and three pizzas. It was well worth the cost as the quality was top notch. The service was excellent as well. It was nice to see a server excited about the food and I can see why, although they do need to work on the Romana Salad.
Of course, I know a lot of people will immediately ask how Pomo compares to Pizzeria Bianco. To be honest, I can’t make that comparison as I haven’t been to Bianco’s in over two years. However, I can unequivocally state that I would go back to Pomo for pizza in a flash. The pies are superb and the numerous options for pizza will allow me lots of return visits without getting bored.
All in all, this was a great pizza, a solid meal, and a great time with Eric.
Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana
6166 North Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85253
Dress: Scottsdale Casual. Botox optional.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 11 AM to 9 PM; Friday and Saturday – 11 AM to 10 PM
Notes: Online reservations available (and advisable).
Alcohol: Full bar with an extensive wine list.
Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert has been on my radar for quite some time. I have wanted to get out there for a meal since I started hearing good things about the atmosphere and the food.
So, I gassed up the Sethmobile and drove out to the far reaches of Gilbert to find this place. Let me warn you that a drive from Arcadia to Joe’s is quite the hike. In fact, it seemed like it took nearly 11 months to get there and back before I could write about it.
However, I did find the restaurant and was a bit overwhelmed by the surrounding. The restaurant itself was in the middle of several sprawling acres of land with plenty of farmland, shade trees, picnic tables and a few scattered buildings featuring a coffee shop and a refreshment stand. My target, however, was the main restaurant, a counter service locale featuring burgers, sandwiches, salads, and, during morning hours, breakfast. I parked the car and wandered into the building, passing groups of people with their dogs and large families enjoying the warm afternoon and chomping down on baskets of food.
It was a tad warm for me outside, so I was hopeful the restaurant had some interior seating with plenty of air conditioning. I wasn’t disappointed. Walking into the main restaurant, I was confronted with a group of stanchions guiding me to the ordering window. I had a chance to review the menu both from the hard copy I picked up on the way in and also from the digital menu beaming from the large video screen next to the ordering window. Several people were waiting to place their orders and I got a chance to look around and figure out where to sit.
The interior was cool and comfortable with an industrial edge. There was a community table in the center of the restaurant and then a room to the West with tables and chairs. Additional tables and chairs were just to the North.
I approached the order window and had made up my mind. I selected the Fontina Burger ($8.99), the Grilled Wedge Salad ($7.99), and a Diet Coke ($1.99). I handed over my payment and received my receipt, a vibrating pager, and a cup for my soda. I headed for the drink station but realized that it was actually outside on the north face of the building. I took my place in line and waited to get my beverage. I then headed back inside to the long community table that I had to myself.
About 15 minutes passed and my pager went off, beckoning me to the Pick Up window. On a tray, my burger and salad awaited me. The portion size was plentiful and I was pleased at the appearance of my meal.
I returned to the drink station to freshen up my drink and get some ketchup for my fries. Sitting down at the table, I couldn’t decide what to eat first, so I started with the Fontina Burger. More specifically, I started with the fries. In a word, the fries were fabulous. The cooks in the kitchen nailed these right out of the gate. Piping hot with a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior, the skin-on fries were a hit. If I had one quibble it would be that a gentler hand be used on the salt, but it didn’t mar the final product in any way. I was quite pleased.
The Fontina Burger itself was quite large. The big, soft bun held together a mix of the six ounce burger topped with roasted red peppers, grilled mushrooms, greens, a homemade pecan pesto and a nice bit of Fontina cheese. I was expecting it to be a bit sloppy, but I was pleased that it wasn’t. It was an excellent burger and the pesto really made the entire dish shine. The one failing of the burger, however, was the bun. It didn’t taste bad and it was a perfectly nice bread product, but I thought there was just too much of it and felt the flavors of the burger, mushrooms, peppers and mushrooms were fighting for equal billing with the bun. Still, I would order the burger again.
My next stop was the Grilled Wedge Salad. I have never really indulged too often in the Wedge Salad realm. Often, I find them pretty bland and paltry and they became somewhat cliche after a while (much like Grilled Radicchio). But the idea of a wedge of Iceberg Lettuce being grilled and then treated with the traditional toppings of a Blue Cheese dressing, tomatoes and bacon crumbles piqued by interest. Like the burger, the portion sized was large and a half head of lettuce split in two sat on a tray in front of me. I carved off a piece of the lettuce and took a bite. Suddenly, I realized that a wedge salad must be equally treated with all the toppings. The bite I had tasted of pure smoke. This was perfect for the salad, but on its own, it was quite startling and I grabbed my drink to quash a bit of the overwhelming taste. I spent the next minute or two carving up the wedge, tossing it all together and then sprinkling it with a good dose of black pepper. My second bite was heaven. The smoky flavor and the blue cheese paired well and I was so happy that the bacon was crisp and the tomatoes were fresh and not mealy. I took the liberty of squeezing on a bit of the juice from the lemon wedge that came with the salad and that only heightened the flavors. This was just a wonderfully refreshing and delicious salad. No doubt that I will be having it again.
I finished my meal and relaxed for a bit before heading to the car. I was quite pleased with my lunch and was very impressed with Joe’s Farm Grill. There were, however, two things that I thought could use a bit of improvement (besides the bun). First, a second drink station would greatly benefit the grounds. There were a lot of people having lunch and only one self-serve drink station. That led to a constant line and waiting just to so much as refreshing a drink.
The other thing was what I felt was an incessant reminder that Joe’s Farm Grill had been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives.” The flat screen TV, the digital menu and so forth constantly blurted out that this restaurant was visited by the Food Network. I understand the pride that Joe must have in being featured and I would never take that away from him, but the constant reminder around the interior of the restaurant was a bit overwhelming. The video screen playing the segment from the show over and over again was only captivating when I saw Joe and his staff out in the farm fields picking the veggies for use in the restaurant. If there was a documentary video with, perhaps, closed captioning or a little volume, I would have been much more interested in that than seeing Guy Fieri’s mug in the kitchen. I certainly understand the PR value to it all, but it just seemed a bit “in your face.”
So, I started my long drive back to Arcadia with a happy tummy and a desire to return to Joe’s Farm Grill.
I am just glad I had a big, satisfying lunch as that drive was killer.
Joe’s Farm Grill
3000 East Ray Road
Gilbert, AZ 85296
Dress: Casual. Overalls welcome.
Hours: 8 AM to 9 PM, 7 Days A Week
Notes: From Phoenix, take the 202 to the 101 to the 202 East and exit at Higley Road. If you get to Albuquerque, you just passed it.
Itâ€™s hard to believe I have been married a year. Time is fleeting and the holidays are upon us. But we werenâ€™t going to let work issues and holidays and life stand in the way of celebrating, so J. came to town and we did indeed celebrate. However, we did take a chance on our celebration dinner.
We debated about trying something tried and true, but after reviewing some menus online, we discussed the possibility of trying the newest steakhouse in town: Modern Steak. This was an unexpected opportunity because Modern Steak had been all over the news due to one item on the menu: a $76.00 steak. Unfortunately, that was the focus of most discussion surrounding Modern Steak and we finally looked at the menu online to see the fuss.
Yes, there sure was a steak for $76.00 on the menu. However, that was the most expensive thing on the menu and we were surprised at how reasonable the prices were overall. There were some steaks for around $25.00 and sides were all of $8.00. So, we threw caution to the wind, booked a table for 8:00 PM and spent the rest of the day running errands.
At the appointed time, we arrived at Scottsdale Fashion Square and parked a few feet from the entrance. Sauntering in, we were cheerfully greeted and taken to a spacious table with banquets that were more like the sofa in the room where you can only tread during special occasions. We were handed menus and got comfortable.
Our first impressions were exceptionally favorable because the restaurant is simply gorgeous inside. The blue and white color combination with the lattice design on the walls and the sparkling chandeliers was a feast for the eyes. It was just on the cusp of being overdone, but it was still one of the prettiest interiors of a restaurant I have seen in some time.
Reviewing the menu again, we were struggling to come to some definitive decision on what to get. Our server arrived and asked for our drink order. We really werenâ€™t prepared, so I ordered a Diet Coke ($3.00) and J. had an Iced Tea ($3.00). After some discussion, we had finally determined what we were going to do. To start our meal, I went with the Arugula and Sour Apple Salad ($12.00) and J. selected the Hot & Cold Wedge ($12.00). For the mains, J. wanted the Sonoma Rack of Lamb ($38.00) and I went for the Meyer All-Natural 12-ounce New York Strip ($29.00). For our side dishes, we couldnâ€™t pass up the Mascarpone Creamed Corn ($8.00). We also ordered the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Applewood Bacon ($8.00) and the Cheesy Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Organic Fried Egg ($8.00). We also decided to get the Housemade Steak Sauce ($2.00).
When our waiter arrived with our initial drinks, we placed our order, but also opted to go for a couple of cocktails. The selections were a Perfect Pimmâ€™s Cup ($9.00) for J. and the Modern Swizzle ($10.00) for me. Our waiter informed us that bread would be forth coming.
Sure enough, we had a member of the serving team arrive with a rectangular serving dish containing a Parmesan bread and a Potato Bread served with a spread made of Butter, Sour Cream and Chives. Both breads were fresh, moist and golden brown. Our favorite, though, was the potato bread with a generous slathering of the butter. That was an inspired creation as it did taste like a baked potato. Our meal was off to a great start.
About five minutes passed and our salads arrived. My Arugula and Sour Apple Salad was a mix of arugula, sour apples, balsamic onions, blue cheese and Candied Walnuts. It was very complex and the flavors were robust and hit the right notes. I appreciated the fact that the salad was intensely cold and fresh. The sour apples were actually the meat of the sour apples that had been obtained with a melon baller. The whole dish was very good.
J.’s Hot & Cold Wedge was an interesting creation. Two iceberg lettuce wedges were on the plate with the hot side getting a spinach salad-style treatment and the other being fixed in the traditional way. J. enjoyed both as, like my salad, the cold side was very cold and crisp. The hot said had a warm, bacon vinaigrette and a strip of extra crispy bacon lying across the grain. J. indicated, however, that a mix of the two was a wonderful feast for the mouth.
As we munched on our salads, our drinks arrived, which had me thinking as to why we got our salads before our cocktails, but there it was. The Perfect Pimm’s Cup and the Modern Swizzle were gorgeous with their multi-colored hues of red. The Perfect Pimm’s Cup was a concoction of gin, vermouth, cucumber, lime, lemon, orange, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, mint and a splash of soda water. J. found the drink very refreshing and loved that the fruit actually complimented the drink instead of overpowering it. He also noticed that these could easily put him under the table as the drink has almost no harsh alcohol flavor, but he could feel the “warm and tingling feet” feeling. My Modern Swizzle contained rum, lime juice, raspberry and orange bitters, and soda. Like the Pimm’s Cup, this was very refreshing and you could almost feel like you were on a porch on a lazy summer day in August in Phoenix sipping this drink. Not overly sweet and not tart, but just delicious.
After finishing our salads and sipping our beverages, we were suddenly set upon by three servers including our own. They were bearing our various dishes and replenishing the bread. J.’s Sonoma Rack of Lamb looked beautiful with two large, double-boned chops and a fall vegetable fricassee. J. found the vegetable to be very well prepared. He said everything was fresh and the veggies, thankfully, were not overcooked. He also liked the lamb itself, but found that the seasoning of the meat was inconsistent and part of the lamb was rather boring in taste. He said the addition of the Housemade Steak Sauce really enhanced the flavor of the lamb and save the dish, but he still felt the meat deserved better, or at least equal, treatment throughout.
My Meyer All-Natural Strip Steak was perfectly cooked and still sizzling a bit on the plate when it arrived. It had been liberally treated with black pepper and was served with a warm onion jam. My first bite was excellent. The meat was right at medium rare as I had requested and the beef flavor was supreme. The addition of the onion jam and the steak sauce made the steak that much better and I was mopping up the sauce from the sauce and the jam with some of the bread. What I appreciate most about my steak was that it was very tender and they allowed it to rest for a few moments so that the juices didn’t flow out. I was very pleased.
Along with our meats came the side dishes and we both dove in for the Cheesy Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and a Fried Egg. With J.’s consent, I burst the yolk of the egg and let it drizzle down the sides of the potatoes. J. and I both agreed that the potatoes dish was good, but somewhat on the bland side. We would have appreciated some sort of spice or garlic or even some sea salt. Still, the egg made the dish and we were happy with the combination of the ingredients.
The Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Applewood Smoked Bacon was exceptional. The sprouts had been cut into quarters, roasted and then tossed with pieces of the smoked bacon and the drippings from the bacon. Wow. If Brussels sprouts were served this way more often, kids wouldn’t be avoiding them like the plague. They were tender, full of flavor and not boiled to death. We were scraping the dish on this one.
The absolute best dish on the table, though, was with Mascarpone Creamed Corn. Hands down. In fact, I think it is probably one of the finest side dishes I have ever had in my life. It was sinfully rich and decadent and the flavors of the corn and mascarpone were a match made in heaven. It almost resembled a pudding in a way, but was much more intense and a bit more creamy than a pudding would be. All we knew was that we could have gone for a second or third serving of the creamed corn. It was stellar on every single level.
We were pleasantly full from our meal and we were polishing off the last of the bread when we were asked about dessert. We said we would take a look at the menu, but, we were rather full. I also mentioned to J. that the dessert menu seemed to lack the creativity and pizazz of the dinner menu. There was really nothing that stood out or piqued our interest. So, when our waiter returned, we requested our bill. The total for the excursion was $145.73 including tax. J. and I both felt that this was a very good value considering some of the creativity and surprises going on in the kitchen.
Service was outstanding. Our server was explanatory, patient and very engaging. We also liked the fact that everyone at the restaurant seemed very happy to help customers with questions and to check on tables to insure the dining experience was positive.
After paying the bill and heading to the car, J. and I were discussing how pleasantly surprised we were with Modern Steak. The menu was approachable, the food was, by and large, top notch and the service was great. Despite the concerns we had heard about the $76.00 steak, that was one item on a menu with a price point that is very fair for an upscale steakhouse in Scottsdale.
Modern Steak will be considered for future visits and rightly so.
7014 East Camelback Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Dress: Resort Casual on up.
Hours: Lunch – Monday through Saturday: 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Sunday 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM; Mid-Day Menu – Everyday: 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM; Dinner – Sunday through Thursday: 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Friday and Saturday: 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM.
Notes: Located on the southeast corner of Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. Next to the restaurant is Modern Burger open noon to 4 PM daily.
Alcohol: Full bar.
One of the cuisines that always seems to get short shrift from me is Italian. I am not sure why because I love Italian food. There is something incredibly comforting and fulfilling about a big plate of pasta or a wonderful chicken dishes with sometimes subtle, sometimes robust sauces.
I also always seem to think about that in my routine of selecting a restaurant. Mexican, Asian, even Middle Eastern get considered first.
But I was having a craving for Italian food and I strong armed J. into finding a nice Italian restaurant in the Valley that could give us some hearty food but not bust the wallet. After doing some searching, we decided to try out Aielloâ€™s, a relatively new Italian restaurant on Central Avenue in Phoenix just north of Camelback. I had heard some good reports about Aielloâ€™s was glad that they were able to take a late reservation.
After arriving, we parked in the back parking lot and saw a small Dutch door with a big sign touting Aielloâ€™s take out pizza. We made our way to the side of the building and entered and were taken to a large table in the middle of the restaurant. Our initial impressions were very favorable due to the subdued lighting, the lovely vaulted ceiling and layout of the restaurant. It was quite relaxing and subdued and the Sinatra music didnâ€™t hurt either.
We scanned the menu and it was very extensive. J. and I both had a tough time deciding on what we should get. While we decided, we were presented with a basket of bread, garlic butter, and flavored olive oil. The bread was wonderful with its light, salty flavor and a slightly chewy crust. What made it even better was the flavored olive oil that had been infused with spicy peppers. Absolutely delicious and the kick of spice complimented the bread quite well. We agreed that the garlic butter was excellent because they didn’t shy away from the garlic. Hooray!
Our waiter arrived and took our drink order: one Diet Coke ($2.00) and one Iced Tea ($2.00). When he returned with our beverage selections, he took our order. J. and I agreed to get the Antipasto for Two ($16.00). That would be followed by the Chicken Parmesan ($17.00) for me and the Italian Sausage and Peppers ($14.00) for J.
While we waited, J. and I noticed how the owner of the restaurant was visiting tables, making sure the food prep was proceeding and was just being generally affable with the staff and customers. It was nice to see and very welcome. You could see how much the owner loved his restaurant and wanted to make his customers happy.
Our Antipasto for Two arrived and it was surprising, but in a very good way. Missing from the plate was the inevitable gobs of lettuce hidden under the meats, vegetables and cheeses. No, this version was all about the small, tasty treats that we would drizzle with balsamic vinegar and some of the spicy olive oil. The plate was socked full of mozzarella, vine tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, roasted peppers, prosciutto, Provolone, marinated artichoke hearts, salami and olives. It was a wonderful treat. The portion was perfect for two and the platter of vegetables, cheeses and meats were stellar. The balsamic and spicy oil only served to enhance the dish that much more. J. and I were raving about the appetizer because it was superb. What a fun and ambrosial way to start out meal.
We had just finished our Antipasto when our main dishes arrived. J.’s Italian Sausage and Peppers was an optic treat. The large serving of Italian Sausage was great for J. He loved the snap and the spice of the sausage and really appreciated the sweetness of the peppers since they added a wonderful counterbalance to the savory nature of the dish. He also like the spaghetti and Pomodoro sauce as the side dish. He did say he would have preferred a bit more sauce, but still enjoyed everything on his plate.
My Chicken Parmesan was exactly what I wanted. A large boneless chicken breast was breaded and then sauteed. On top of the chicken was a hearty amount of thick Pomodoro sauce with mushrooms and a slab of mozzarella cheese that had melted and was lightly browned. Along side the chicken was a serving of spaghetti with some of the same Pomodoro sauce that adorned the chicken. The chicken itself was tender, moist and perfectly cooked. It could easily have been overcooked, but it certainly wasn’t. I also like the fact that even with the sauce, cheese and moistness of the chicken, the breading still had a good bit of crispiness to it. The sauce was not overpowering but slightly acidic, a tiny hint of spice and a full-bodied flavor. The mushrooms provided a good texture. The spaghetti was al dente and held the sauce well. I had nothing but good things to say about my dish. J. tried a bite and was very pleased with the results. “Quite good,” he said.
We took our time working through our meals and when it was all said and done, we knew we didn’t have room for dessert. We had another round of beverages and asked for the bill. The total was $55.25 which included the tax. We thought it was an very good value. The portions were very satisfactory and the quality of the food was excellent. Service was good, but we did have a quibble about the fact that getting refills on our drinks seemed to take an inordinate amount of time.
Before we could pay our bill, the owner approached our table and asked us how our dinner was. We told him how much we enjoyed it and he said he was pleased and wanted us to play a pick-a-number game with him. He grabbed an onion shaped container and shook it. The rattling sound filled the restaurant and he told us that there were 90 numbered tiles in the container and we were to pick a number. He would then turn the container over and a tile would spill out. If the tile matched our number, the entire meal was on the house. I let J. pick the number. His choice was 32.
The tile that spilled out was…. 33.
5202 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Dress: Resort Casual
Hours: Lunch: Monday through Friday – 11 AM to 4 PM; Dinner: Sunday through Thursday – 4 PM to 9 PM, Friday and Saturday – 4 PM to 10 PM.
Notes: Entrance is on the north side of the building. Ample parking in the back.
Alcohol: Full bar.
One of my favorite treats is Dim Sum.
For those of you who have never enjoyed this decadence, the traditional Dim Sum operation goes something like this:
1. You are seated at a table and a card is placed on the table with various prices on it.
2. Workers pass by your table with carts containing small plates of goodies.
3. If you see something you like, you simply ask for a plate of the item and it is taken off the cart and given to you.
4. The workers stamp or mark your card with the appropriate price for the plate you selected.
After that, you simply continue the practice until you are satisfied and then you pay your bill.
But as of late, I have found that I am regularly attracted to China Chan, a little Chinese restaurant on the outer ring of MetroCenter. It is housed in an older building in what looks to have been a diner. The place only has about 20 tables or so. What brings me here is the Dim Sum that always seems to come out piping hot, which it preferable to the often cold Dim Sum I have had at other places that use the carts.
Recently, I convinced Dad, Katerina, and J. to take a jaunt out to MetroCenter to try the Dim Sum at China Chan. The place wasnâ€™t busy as we pulled into the lot and parked. We were immediately seated at a large booth near the front door and were asked if we wanted the regular menu or the Dim Sum menu. When I indicated our preference, we were handed a laminated menu showing the Dim Sum options (including photos) and a checklist where we could indicate what we wanted.
Since I knew the tastes of everyone at the table, I asked them to trust me and they did. While I make the selections, we ordered four ice teas ($1.50 each) and when the server returned with our drinks, I handed him the checklist with our selections: Shrimp Dumplings [Har Gow] ($1.85), Shrimp Egg Rolls ($2.85), Baked BBQ Pork Buns ($1.80), Steamed BBQ Pork Buns ($1.80), Shark Fin Dumplings ($1.80), Daikon Cake ($1.80), BBQ Pork Pastries ($1.80), Sesame Seed Balls ($1.80), Pineapple Buns ($2.85), Roasted Pork ($5.99), Beef Noodle ($2.85), and Shu Mai ($1.80). It was going to be a feast.
We noticed right away that unlike most places serving Dim Sum and due to the size of the restaurant, they were not using the carts, but were bringing things out of the kitchen as their preparation was completed. (Although at one point China Chan did use the carts, so they may bring them out when it gets really busy.)
We had only waited about 10 minutes before our first dishes arrive. Right off the bat, the Har Gow was placed before us. Four beautiful pink dumplings composed of plump shrimp encased in a translucent wonton wrapper. We each pluck one from the metal tin and munched away. The shrimp were hot, tender and had a nice taste of the sea. These were a big hit.
The next treat was the Baked BBQ Pork Buns. The buns were egg dough surrounding a lovely dollop of Chinese BBQ Pork. Atop the buns was a slightly sweet and very sticky glaze that was a sharp contrast to the savory pork and the salty bun. The buns were searing hot and we had to wait to let them cool. When we did get to feast, the glaze stuck to our teeth, but we had a great time enjoying each bite.
The Shrimp Egg Rolls arrived and the golden egg roll wrappers were super crisp and perfectly fried. We loved the fact that these egg rolls were not traditional in that there was only shrimp as the filling. Like the Har Gow, the shrimp were sizable and delicious. Topping them with the Sweet and Sour sauce was a pleasant addition that only enhanced the taste. These were probably one of the top three favorites at the table.
Next up were the Steamed BBQ Pork Buns. Like their baked cousins, these were spoonfuls of Chinese BBQ Pork surrounded by a fluffy white dough and steamed until done. The fun was grabbing one, splitting it open and popping it into our mouths. Dad said these really werenâ€™t his favorites and noted the texture was odd for him. The rest of us loved them.
The Shark Fin Dumplings were reminiscent of the shape of a sharkâ€™s fin, but there is always a question as to whether or not they actually contain real shark fin (some restaurants do and some donâ€™t). Regardless, these dumplings contained pork and vegetables and were steamed and had a great taste and texture. It was an excellent contrast of chewy, crunchy and smooth. Again, these didnâ€™t stand a chance against our hunger.
The Daikon Cake is one of my favorites and was a hit here. Well, with me at least. I loved the chopped and formed flat cakes that are fried and then topped with a dab of soy sauce. It reminds me a lot of cooked turnips or parsnips, but this dish didnâ€™t seem to be anyone elseâ€™s favorite at the table (although J. swears he liked it but was too focused on the other goodies… such a good husband).
The big winner at the table was the BBQ Pork in Pastry. Oh, these were just heaven on a plate. Yes, it was the same Chinese BBQ pork used in the other offerings, but these were in a light and flaky pastry that rocked our worlds. Sweet and salty paired so well with the pork and BBQ sauce. It was a grand dish.
The plate of Crackling Pork had Katerina in ecstasy. The large plate of cooked pork with a very crispy and crunchy skin was fantastic. The pork was rich and moist and the skin was an absolute treat because it was roasted and caused a noisy crunch with each bite. We all picked at the plate with our chopsticks until every last microbe of pork has been devoured.
J. wanted to try the Beef Noodle, so we ordered that, but this dish is not one of my favorites. For me, it is a textural thing centering around the noodle, which is sleek, flat and a bit to chewy for my taste. Everyone else at the table seemed to enjoy them. J. liked the contrast between the noodle itself and the stringy beef filling.
The Shu Mai were a Dim Sum standard. These were three small, bite-sized dumplings filled with ground pork, ground shrimp, black mushroom and a spot of carrot for color. This was a successful dish for us because it was operating on all cylinders. The meat was perfectly seasoned and the dumpling wrapper was properly steamed. It was a delicious nugget and we were all very happy with this selection.
It was time for the sweet items and we were not let down with the Sesame Seed Balls. The perfectly round dough balls had been coated in toasted sesame seeds and the interior was a red bean paste. It was not overly sweet and had a great balance of flavors and was warm throughout. These were perfect.
The final dessert was the Pineapple Buns which resembled hot dog buns in a way, but the interior had a pineapple puree with pineapple chunks that Dad, J. and Katerina were raving about. Sadly, I was too stuffed to even try. But they were very attractive with their glossy appearance and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. J. particularly liked the fact that they were not overly sweet and the bread was yeasty.
When we had finished our salute to gluttony, we asked for a To Go box to take home the food we couldn’t finish. As I put everything way, we were presented with our bill. This Chinese spread was a mere $55.38 which included tax. What a steal! The fact that you could get a plate of Baked BBQ Pork Buns for $1.80 was telling that our meal was an outstanding value. Service was attentive and friendly. We made our way back to the car and made the trip back to Arcadia.
There was little to dislike about our meal except for personal preferences. I have grown quite fond of China Chan because it is insanely affordable, the food is hot and fresh, and you can get a variety of items.
It isn’t the best Dim Sum I have ever had, but it sure is near the top.
10227 North Metro Parkway East
Phoenix, AZ 85051
Hours: 11 AM to 9 PM – Thursday through Tuesday; Closed Wednesdays.
Notes: Dim Sum served every day until 3 PM.
Alcohol: Full bar.
Many years ago, Paradise Valley mall was a true jewel along Tatum Boulevard. The area around it sprang to life and had some great shopping. What always seemed to be lacking, though, were the dining options (unless the PV Mall food court was your thing).
There were plenty of chains and fast food was aplenty. But for some decent, quality, better-than-your-average-chain food, the selections were rare (although you could find a couple if you looked hard enough). Today, PV Mall is set for the grand opening of a Costco that is sure to bring more life to the area and that should lead – hopefully! – to more on the dining scene.
One place that may make an impact is Floyd’s Kitchen, located just north of Cactus on Tatum in the strip mall on the east side of the street. J. was in town and we decided to head up to try Floyd’s for lunch before going to PV Mall to a jeweler we like.
Parking was not a problem and J. immediately spotted the GameStop and the comic book store right next to Floyd’s so I knew the jeweler would have to wait. We entered Floyd’s and the small eatery was fairly empty with a few tables occupied. We were told to sit where we like and took up residence at a table/booth combination. Our server arrived with lunch menus and took our drink order. I had an Iced Tea ($2.00) while J. had a Diet Pepsi ($2.00).
The menu was a melange of American, Pizza, surf and turf and sandwiches. The signature dishes were the comfort food choices of items like meatloaf and pot roast and pork chops. When our server returned with our drinks, we placed our order. To start, we went with the Maple Bacon Wrapped Shrimp ($8.95), the Pot Roast ($9.95) for me, and the Jerk Chicken ($8.95) for J.
While we waited, I relaxed in the chair while glancing over to the large, flat-screen TV playing the day’s college football offering. The interior of the restaurant was minimally decorated, but J. and I agreed had a very comfortable feeling. We also like the music mix which was all over the place from pop to rock to Motown.
Our Maple Bacon Wrapped Shrimp arrived and the plate held five big tiger shrimp encased in bacon and served with a roasted red pepper sauce. I picked one of the shrimp up with my fingers and quickly dropped it on my plate as the thing was searing hot. I cut into a piece and had a bit of worry that the large size of the shrimp might be that I was in for a rubbery experience, but the flavor, texture and temperature of the appetizer were very good. J. and I both were pleased with the fact that it didn’t come with yet another serving of cocktail sauce. The roasted red pepper sauce was a nice change and had some delicate flavors, but I would have preferred to have had it a tad spicy. Still, we both devoured the shrimp.
J.’s Jerk Chicken was a very large portion size. Three big pieces of boneless chicken were liberally treated with Jerk seasoning and served with Caribbean Rice and green beans. The chicken was exceptionally moist and the Jerk seasoning was outstanding. It was very good replication of the traditional dish. J. feasted away on the chicken with a smile on his face. The Caribbean Rice was a mix of long grain rice with beans. J. said it reminded him of dirty rice and, while liking it, would have preferred something with a bit more heat from spice. The green beans were killer. They were perfectly cooked and tossed with a lovely butter sauce. All in all, J. was thrilled with his dish. I thought it was quite good as well.
My Pot Roast was huge. The amount of food on the plate meant I would leave stuffed. A very large portion of slow cooked pot roast in a rich gravy was piled high on my plate and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a sauteed mix of broccoli, squash, pea pods and peppers. The roast was fork tender with wonderfully seasoned. The gravy was fantastic with its aromatic vegetables and thick stock. It guaranteed the meat was going to be moist. The garlic mashed potatoes were heaven. Pure joy. They were fluffy, socked full of flavor and some of the best mashed potatoes I have had in the Valley in some time. The sauteed vegetables were also quite terrific. Whoever is cooking in the kitchen is a master with vegetables. The whole plate was a nice treatment of American comfort food.
After finishing our meals and relaxing, we asked for the check. Our bill was $34.49 which included tax. We thought it was a complete bargain due to the portion size and the quality of the cooking. Service was attentive and friendly, so we had no complaints there.
In fact, we had few complaints about Floyd’s and lots of compliments. I do think they are holding back a bit on dealing with spice in dishes, but that is an easy fix. However, there was nothing preventing us from giving Floyd’s a big thumbs up for our experience.
We both hoped that Floyd’s will continue for some time to come. The prices are exceptionally reasonable, the food is good, the service is friendly, and the menu has something for everyone.
And it certainly is a welcome break from the myriad of chains that inhabit the PV Mall area.
12601 North Tatum Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85032
Hours: Monday through Thursday: 11 AM to 10 PM; Friday and Saturday: 11 AM to 11 PM. Closed Sunday
Notes: Patio available. Located between the Cold Stone Creamery and Sprouts.
Alcohol: Beer and Wine.
Having slept in, we awoke late morning to a beautiful sunny Las Vegas day and slowly pieced ourselves together for the slog to the airport.
We checked out of the hotel, loaded up the rental car with our luggage and proceed to head to Lindo Michoacan for a Mexican lunch. As we wound our way through the streets, I bypassed the entrance to the place and had to make a quick back up plan to get back to the restaurant. But we made our way into a packed parking lot and I was hoping we would have to long a wait.
When we entered, we were immediately taken to a four-top table in the center of one of the dining rooms and handed menus. Our table had a comprehensive view of the surroundings and J. and I got a kick out of watching a PGA open via ESPN Spanish on the large, flatscreen TV in the corner with scrolling captions.
Moments later, we were given water along with chips, hot sauce and a bowl of refried beans. The chips were slightly thick and the sauce had a nice kick about 30 seconds after hitting our mouths. The beans were smooth, creamy and, I am sure, cooked with lard. The combination of the three was much enjoyed.
Our server arrived and asked for our drink order. I really wanted a Diet Coke, but they only had Pepsi products so I opted for an Iced Tea ($2.50). J. had one as well. We were also ready to order, so we decided on the Arroz con Mole ($5.95) as an appetizer, with me getting the Pollo Con Tomate Estilo Zirahuen ($14.95) for my entree and J. getting the Carnitas a la Coca-Cola ($16.95). This begged the question of why the pork could have a Coke product, but I couldn’t. But usually when I ask those questions I get slapped, so I just keep these things to myself.
Much to our surprise, the first things to our table after the beverages were two cups of Fideo Soup. The thin tomato broth contained a slight hint of chile and onions. At the bottom of the cup was a hefty dose of vermicelli broken into half-inch pieces. It wasn’t an exciting soup, but a nice little extra that we both enjoyed. And, thankfully, the soup was hot.
When we saw the Arroz con Mole on the menu, J. and I both scratched our heads a bit because it just made perfect sense to have mole sauce over rice, but we have never seen this before. When it arrived, the steam was wafting off the top and the thick, rich mole sauce was liberally covering the rice. We torn into the fresh corn tortillas and pinched some of the rice and mole like pitas and hummus. The result was sheer decadence. The rice was perfect and the mole sauce was incredibly vibrant with its spices and chocolate. Such a simple dish and yet it was outstanding on just about every level. What a treasure.
After finishing the rice with mole, we had a small respite before the entrees arrived. When J.’s Carnitas a la Coca-Cola arrived, I was instantly envious. The large chunks of pork in the dark sauce were enticing. The scent was that much better. The pork was incredibly tender and the sauce – a mixture of chiles, onion, garlic, cloves and Coca-Cola Classic – was superlative. It was exceptionally flavorful and I liked it as much as J. did. It was served with more corn tortillas and they were a wonderful compliment to the pork and sauce. Also on the plate were rice, beans and guacamole. J. enjoyed all of them and said his dish was a complete success.
My Pollo Con Tomate Estilo Zirahuen was boneless chicken breasts browned in olive oil and then cooked with tomatoes, onions, sour cream and paprika. The beautiful orange color was quite inviting. My first bite was very good. The chicken was moist and tender and the cream sauce was slightly spicy. I thought the mix was well crafted. J. agreed. I also like the beans and rice. The flour tortillas I received with my meal were outstanding. It was evident they were right off the griddle to our table and I couldn’t have been happier with them. The only downside to my plate was that I had specifically asked for the guacamole to remain off the plate due to a food allergy. That request was not followed. Thankfully, the guacamole was fairly stationary in a small lettuce cup, so that helped.
Due to the large portion sizes, we didn’t even consider dessert. We requested our bill and the total was $46.33 which included the tax. We thought it was an excellent value because of the quality of the food. Service was friendly and personable, but does get a ding for the guacamole issue. Still, there was no doubt that J. and I would go back to Lindo.
We retreated to our car and made the slow trek back to the rental car center and then to the airport. We said our goodbyes as J. headed to the Southwest flight back to Orange County and I went to the gate for my flight home.
We had a wonderful time in Vegas and, overall, our dining choices had been successful.
But it was time to head back for feasting in Phoenix.
2655 East Desert Inn Road
Las Vegas, NV 89121
Hours: Monday – Thursday: 10:30 AM to 11:00 PM; Friday: 10:30 AM to 12:00 AM; Saturday: 9:00 AM to 12:00 AM; Sunday: 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Notes: Several other locations in Las Vegas.
Alcohol: Full bar.