Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dick's Hideaway

One of the places I've heard a lot about in Phoenix is Richardson's. Apparently they are one of the "must go" places if you want to try New Mexican cuisine in Phoenix. After a long day of car shopping (see Tara's blog for that fun time), I was driving semi-aimlessly along Bethany Home. I was debating on Hana or something else in the area. Tara thought I was going to Richardson's since I'd mentioned it earlier, so we headed there. We parked near the entrance to Richardson's along the Bethany Home side. As we were walking from the car, she said hi to some guy walking towards us. Apparently he was a coworker I've heard about but never met. He was meeting some people and said Richardson's was packed with a 45 minute wait. I'd been planning on hitting Dick's Hideaway, since it serve the same menu and isn't quite as busy normally. I asked him where the entrance was and he said it was around the corner, and that they were busy, but not as bad. After looking over the menu posted in front of Richardson's door, Tara said she could find something (she's not into spicy food) and we headed over to Dick's.

Around the corner on the 16th side, an unmarked doorway had a menu board next to it with the Dick's menu. We entered a dimly lit, bar-looking place. No hostess was evident and I peeked into what looked like a large wine cellar to the immediate right. It was a dining room, but set up for a private party. A waitress said we could at the lone remaining two-top (a short bar-like table at the back) or take a seat at the end of the bar. We took the bar seating. The waitress handed us two place mat menus (with Richardson's Dinner Menu along the top, instead of Dick's) and took our drink order of water with lemon for each of us.

The menu is divied into several sections: Soups, salads, pizzas, house specialties, and Sante Fe Trail. The specialties run from $21 for a pasta to New Mexican surf and turf for $29. The Sante Fe Trail items range from $9 for a cheeseburger to $16 for a cheesesteak sandwich. The Carne Adovada on the SFT side caught my eye while Tara settled on grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp. She asked the waitress about non-spicy items, and this was suggested, minus the spicy sauces normally include. A house salad was subbed for the spicy rice and beans with no problem.

Behind the bar was where there were cooking all the food. We were able to watch them prepare our meal as well as others. It was kinda fun, but the barstools were a bit high for Tara and her legs were hurting. Luckily the food came out fairly quickly.

Her salad was a fairly basic salad with ranch dressing. The portion size was pretty good and the vegetables were nice and fresh. It looked like it could use more salad, but was a good alternative to the spicy carb fest of rice and beans.

Her meal was six good-shrimp wrapped in bacon, service on a large platter with three sauces arrayed on it. She thought it was ok. Something was a bit spicy and she also bit into something hard that might have chipped or broken a tooth and caused a toothache. She's going to visit the dentist for it this week. So in addition to paying for taking her to Dick's, I get to look forward to her holding this over my head as well. :)

My carne adovada came out of the oven on a large metal plate. A large tortilla was spread on the bottom of the plate and the carne adovada, rice, beans, and cheese were put on top of it. A heated tortilla was folded into quarters and set on top of that. Once it cooled, I took a bite, and loved it immediately. The simmered pork was fork tender and the flavor and spice of the red chili permeated the meat. It was a low-level heat the built up slowly. It was a great, full flavor, and in short order, I was feeling the heat and mopping my head. It was a huge portion for the $12 menu price, and I ate about half of the meat and all the beans and rice.

Service was good. The waitress did her best to try to give Tara some non-spicy options, and we knew going in that that might be a problem. A large carafe of iced water was put on the bar in front of us, so we never lacked drinks. With the side room booked, the bar area was nearly packed. I really enjoyed it and would go back in a heartbeat to try some of the other SFT options. I'll just have to drop Tara off at Hobe Meats next door with a portable grill and she'll be more than happy.

Lack o' Updates

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week. My trusty Blogomatic (aka my laptop) didn't like it when I tried installing a Bluetooth adapter. It lobotomized my laptop so that it couldn't connect to any networks. Luckily, one of my coworkers mentioned a way to rebuild my laptop and once I did that, it worked great. I'm still tweaking things, but hope to be back to regular posting soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

TiVo Addiction

Ever since I got my first TiVo back in 2000/2001 (can't remember exactly), I've loved them. Right now, I have, well, let's just say more than one. My primary one has been acting like the drive was dying, so I decided to replace the hard drive. I've done it several times before on my two original Series1 boxes. I've got all Series2 now for the wireless ethernet capability and TiVoToGo. I went to Fry's Electronics over the weekend, and they had a 300GB drive on sale for $59.99. This TiVo was a 140hr from the factory, so I figured this would give me about 300 or so hours. Thankfully the TiVo upgrade community had polished the home upgrade software, so all I had to do was download a CD image, burn it to CD, and haul one of my desktops out of limbo to use for copying the info from the old to new drive. I'm a fairly skilled technogeek and have built all of my desktops myself, so this was easy. Once I configured the drives, I booted up via the CD I burned, and literally had to run one command and it was all hands-off from there. The last time I did it, I had to have a couple bootable floppy disks and run some obscure commands. This was sweet. So I kicked it off and a mere 22 hours later, the copy finished and I've now got a 366-hour TiVo using Basic quality. Even at High quality (my default) I've got 167 hours, more than the Basic capacity before I upgraded. Granted it's not a dual-tuner, HD-capable, but it'll work for $60. :)

The only downside is I pulled my 80-hr TiVo from the back bedroom to use in the living room while I upgraded, and it died yesterday afternoon. Does that fall into the Irony category? At least if I can get the drive up, I can copy the base image onto my desktop until I can get a replacement drive. Otherwise, Tara won't shed a tear if I lose one of my many TiVos (and TiVo-knockoffs). :)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Super Dragon - Phoenix

After the debacle that was our visit to Gourmet House, I was in the mood for some good Chinese. As has become a semi-ritual, we decided to got to Super Dragon on our way to shop for groceries Sunday night. We got there a bit after 7 and snagged a spot in the lot as a car was leaving it. Several huge parties were there, but after a short wait for a booth to be bussed, we sat. During our meal, a party of 8 and a party of 16 came in and were somehow seated with no problems.

We got the pan fried dumplings, hot and sour soup for me, Sesame Chicken for Tara, and Orange Beef for me. I also got a pot of tea.

The soup was so much better than the stuff at GHHK. The flavors were balanced and it lacked the horribly overpowering vinegar taste that plagued GHHK's. I really enjoyed it. The dumplings were nicely fried and came with a nice soy-based sauce. We cleaned that plate in short order.

Our meals came out and somehow they brought me Orange Chicken instead of Beef. The waiter took the dish away and said the correct one would be up shortly. Tara's Sesame Chicken was as ordered. It's got a nice sweet flavor, with distinct sesame overtones. We really like this dish, and it was Tara's favorite up until my Orange Beef arrived about 10 minutes later.

Very dark pieces of beef in a dark sauce filled the large plate. Several whole hot peppers were mixed in, but we picked them out. Small bits of orange peel were also evident. The pieces of beef had been breaded and fried and were buttery soft. The sauce had a very savory flavor, and while it didn't seem very orangey to me, it was an outstanding flavor. Unlike the "sauce" on GHHK's Orange Beef, this had a full flavor bouquet. Tara tried a piece and immediately declared it her favorite. She loves savory over sweet, and apparently this was right up her alley. We each had about 2/3 of our dish leftover, and she took some of my leftovers instead of hers for lunch today. That was fine, since I really like the Sesame as well.

The memory of the horrid meal at GHHK displaced with this outstanding one, we left the restaurant very happy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Yasu's - Lunch visit

I was craving sushi this past week, and I was torn between Hana and Yasu. Hana is great, but Yasu is closer for a lunch visit. I picked Yasu. I really enjoyed our first visit for dinner, so I had high hopes.

Unfortunately, they were dashed. The miso soup I got was a pale shadow of the great soup I had on that first visit. The California roll was uber-generic and something that was even below the supermarket stuff in terms of ingredients and presentation. I know Cali rolls aren't anything special, but done right, they can be really good. This was not. My shrimp tempura roll was equally mundane. I had to ask for eel sauce on the side as it wasn't served with the roll, as it is most places I go. I got some yellowtail, albacore, tuna or salmon (can't remember) and unagi nigiri. The eel was tepid, like it had been sitting out for too long after it was toasted. It had good flavor and texture, though, and didn't make me queasy like the order I had recently at Shiro. The rest of the nigiri was nearly room temperature, also leading me to believe my plate had spent some time just sitting in the back before it was served. All in all, I felt like I should have taken the extra time and gone to Hana.

Service and pacing was also an issue. After sitting for 20 minutes, the waiter said my soup would be out in 5 minutes. Um, how long does it take to ladle soup into a bowl? Then my soup came, and within a minute, both rolls were brought out at the same time. My nigiri came out just as I finished the rolls. Towards the end of the meal, my water was just about empty and several times my waiter walked by (my table was right next to the kitchen doorway), glanced at it, but didn't do anything. Finally, when I was obviously finished, he stopped by and asked if there was anything else. I pointed to my water and asked for a refill. He grabbed the glass and vanished into the back. For another 5 or 10 minutes, I didn't see him. An older waiter stopped by and asked if everything was ok, and I mentioned my missing water glass. He went to get me some more and just as he vanished around the corner, my waiter came from the other direction with my water. I'm not sure what happened, but it was very odd.

All in all, it wasn't a very good lunch. It was better than Shiro, but that's damning with faint praise. As for the rather Spartan rolls, I know it was lunch, but nothing was mentioned as far as the rolls being different than the dinner options. I did notice that the lunch menu seemed to omit the page that lists all the grilled items that I thought was their specialty, so that threw me as well. They seem to be more generic for their lunch offerings than for dinner. If I'd known that, I definitely would have chosen Hana.

I've been to Tokyo Lobby for both lunch and dinner on multiple occasions, and they have the same quality and presentation for both meals. They are also a bit more adventurous with their rolls as well. The cinnamon added to the shrimp tempura rolls adds a great dimension. I know Yasu doesn't bill itself as a sushi-centric place, but given the creativity of their grilled items at dinner, I expected something more than what I got.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gourmet House of Hong Kong

Last night we were going to cook in, but Tara worked late and I did a long stint at the gym, so we decided to go out for something inexpensive. I suggested Centro, Sabuddy, or Chinese. She wasn't in the mood for panini (I was, but I always am for the Italian Press there...) and said Sabuddy or Chinese was fine. I thought of going to Super Dragon, our usual one, but as usual, I remembered that Seth had been to a good Chinese place recently, Gourmet House of Hong Kong. I suggested that and Tara was game.

GHHK is at McDowell and 14th Street. Not the best neighborhood, but the review, and others comments, suggested it was worth trying. We pulled into the lot at a little after 8 and found a spot. The interior has an interesting layout. A small area with a large cooled case for drinks is inside the doors. Turning left, you see the kitchen area and a hallway. Straight behind the cooler case was a darkened room, which I thought was the main dining room. That confused me, since they were supposed to be open til 9:30 or so. However, the hostess turned left and left again, revealing the real main dining room behind a short wall that I didn't see before. It was off the corridor by the kitchen. The dining room is dominated by several huge round tables with lazy susans on them that seat eight or so. Smaller two-tops line the walls. Two huge parties were finishing up and we were led to the far back wall to a two-top. We sat down, ordered a couple waters w/lemon, and looked at the menu.

And what a menu. It's very extensive, with pages and pages of items. We didn't get one, but Seth mentioned that they also have a second, more authentic Chinese menu. After spending about 10 or 15 minutes, we finally narrowed our choices. I was waffling between Wunan Beef and Orange Beef while Tara was torn between a couple of the combination plates. When we finally signaled the infinitely patient waitress we were finally ready, we got the appetizer combo, I got a medium bowl of hot and sour soup, Orange Beef for me, and Chicken Chow Mein combo for Tara. Her combo came with a small wonton soup, an eggroll, and chicken puff. I also ordered a pot of tea.

The first warning sign was when the tea was delivered. I peeked inside and it had two tea bags sitting in the water labeled "oolong". I poured a cup and got clear water. The busboy stopped by and said it still needed to seep. Huh? At every other restaurant I've ever gotten tea, when the pot is on the table, I can pour and get tea. And 99% of them use real loose tea, not tea bags. I poured my cup of water back into the pot and waited, hoping this wasn't a precursor to something worse.

Tara's wonton soup arrived a few minutes later. A small bowl had three wontons in the bottom. I tried the broth and it seemed tasty. Our appetizer combo came out shortly after and it contained many piping hot items: 2 pan-fried dumplings, 2 chicken wings, 2 fried shrimp, an egg roll, and a fried bread stick. A small plate with a bowl of duck sauce and a smaller bowl of mustard came with it. I put one of each pair on my plate to cool and tried half of the fried bread. It was ok. Once the others cooled, I tried each and the were nothing special. Tara said the dumplings reminder her of Schwans' egg rolls from growing up. She didn't mean it as a bad thing, as she liked them growing up. Nothing really had any distinguishing flavors for me.

My hot and sour soup showed up while we were eating the appetizers. A large, probably 20-oz or bigger held molten soup. I needed to let each spoonful cool a long time before I could actually try it. I first tried hot and sour at Super Dragon a few weeks ago, and loved it. This time? Not so much. There was way too much vinegar in the soup and it dominated the whole dish. It did have a nice thick consistency, with lots of tofu, chicken, and salad shrimp, but the vinegar was overpowering. It reminded me of when we colored Easter eggs growing up. I'd barely put any type of dent into the massive "medium" serving when our entrees arrived. Since our table top was very cluttered, I asked if the waitress could box the soup to-go.

Tara's combo had lots of bok choy, noodles, and chicken. What it lacked was any flavor. She doused it with a large amount of soy sauce and when I tried it, it still lacke any flavor. She ate some of the chicken and noodles, but only because she was hungry. "Boring" is how she described it and that pretty much summed up the evening.

My Orange Beef came on a huge platter, easily enough for two or three people. the pieces of beef were much thinner than I expected and the orange sauce was a very light orange. I put some somewhat mushy rice on my plate and tried some of the beef. Hints of orange were almost there, but then they stopped. I tried some beef that was in the sauce at the bottom of the dish and still got nothing. I finally tried some of the sauce by itself, and even then, there was no flavor. It was like the cook was making the dish and got distracted, forgetting the flavorful components. I love Orange Beef and usually use it as my benchmark at new restaurants. This wasn't even worthy of the name. I ate maybe a quarter of the huge serving before calling it quits. I pushed the dish away and waited for the waitress so we could ask for the check.

It was a good fifteen minutes before she finally came by. She asked if she could box anything and we declined. She was very surprised, since we both had more than 2/3 of our respective orders still on the plates. I explained that I just didn't find the beef that flavorful and wasn't how I liked it prepared. She said that lots of people love their Orange and Wunan beef. I told her that I debated between the two, and just chose wrong. She brought the bill and it came to $33. Considering the amount of food, if we'd liked it, it would have been a good deal. However, we didn't, so it really wasn't.

Service was good for most of the meal. However, shortly after our appetizers arrived, we never saw anyone until the end. Our waters up until that point had been diligently refilled. However, by the end, we were both sucking air and never saw him again.

So obviously, we were very disappointed. They seem to not use much seasoning on the dishes we had. Seth said that he's had their Orange Beef before and it had an intense orange flavor. It's possible we hit an off night. However, two bland dishes makes us more prone to skip CHHK and stick with Super Dragon. During our initial visits there, each of us chose a bad dish, but never on the same visit. So we'll stick with them, as they are also closer and the waitstaff is almost anal when it comes to keeping drinks filled.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hashbrown Hotdish (aka Mormon Funeral Potatoes)

One of my friends recently found out she was having Mormon Funeral Potatoes as a side dish brought by a friend for dinner. She hadn't heard of these and posted on CH asking if anyone had heard of them. Being from Minnesota, Tara had of course heard of them, albeit by the name of Hashbrown Hotdish. After hearing about them all day yesterday, she decided she had to have some today. They actually turned out really good. I asked her for a recipe (she's an eyeballer cook) and she came up with this:

1 package frozen hashbrowns - southern style
1 16 oz. carton of sour cream
2 cans cream of chicken soup
8 oz. shredded cheese (cheddar or colby jack)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
2 cups corn flakes
Mix together the first seven ingredients. Top with the corn flake/butter mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until it's bubbly.
The onion and garlic aren't part of the classic recipe, but I added them. If I did it again, I'd probalby saute the onions and garlic before adding them. I wouldn't cook them all the way, but just saute them until they're translucent.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Fenix - Phoenix

A bit over a year ago, one of Tara's friends in Minnesota sent her a link to a review of a Phoenix restaurant done by a local blogger, Seth Chadwick, who runs the Feasting in Phoenix site. I can't remember the restaurant in question, but we searched through the site and found that our opinions on other places we'd been to were very similar. We've since used his site to find new places and many of them have become favorites. He's also a frequent poster on the Chowhound boards. Over the past year, we've commented on his posts both on his blog and CH, and vice versa. A few weeks ago, he sent me an email asking if Tara and I wanted to join him sometime to review a restaurant. We jumped at the opportunity. Eventually we settled on Fenix at Camelback and 40th Street. One of my friends had absolutely raved about their late-night menu, and she liked it to the point that she went there three times in one week. Last Thursday we met Seth there for dinner.

Fenix serves traditional French fare, despite sharing a name with a Mexican chain I used to go to in Dallas. It's a nice restaurant, but it was very dark. We got there just as the sun was going down and that made it seem darker. We parked and entered the restaurant. The hostess was warned that we were joining a friend, and she pointed to the back of the restaurant. Seth got up from the table and greeted us. After shaking his hand, he turned to Tara, cupped his hands, and asked "Ready for dessert?" Tara and I both cracked up at his reference to one of our favorite reviews of his, detailing a horrific experience at a once renowned Phoenix restaurant.

We sat at the table and proceeded to start chatting. When the waitress showed up to take drinks a few minutes later, I realized we hadn't even touched our menus. Tara and I both stuck with water while shockingly Seth ordered a Diet Coke. Tara and I gave the menu a cursory glance, as we'd both decided what we went before we came. We'd checked their online menu ahead of time. Tara and I both started with the onion soup. She got the coq au vin and I got the duck a l'orange. We also got a side of the mac and cheese. Seth got the pallaird of pork, a mixed field green salad, and a side of fries.

We waited and discussed many things: Seth's various friends he does reviews with, beehive hairdos, restaurant experiences, Minnesota fine foods, and the ability of hummus and falafel to precipitate the destruction of Western civilization.

A waiter dropped off a basket of rolls with chilled butter. Two rolls had sesame seeds on the outside and one was plain. I took the plain one and Tara and Seth took the others. The rolls were crusty and outstanding. I just wished that they had been warmed more due to the rock-hard butter. It was hard to spread.

Our onion soup and the salad arrived a few minutes later. Our soup bowls were very hot, but unfortunately the contents were luke-warm at best. The soup did have a really good flavor, but the cheese and bread were one huge glop due to the low temperature. We were disappointed, when just a few more minutes in the oven would have made this a standout. Seth was very happy with his salad. He really liked the dressing and the freshness and simplicity of the presentation really appealed to him. The only downside was that a few minutes after our soup bowls were cleared, Tara and I each received a smaller side salad that came with our meal, but wasn't mentioned on the menu. I'd read a review of Fenix that mentioned them but forgot to tell Seth. They were the same as his, but just on a smaller scale. If he'd known, he would have ordered a different appetizer.

Our main dishes arrived and looked very good. At least, they would if we could actually see them. Both Tara and my dish had dark sauces, and in the low, low lighting, I honestly couldn't tell what I was eating. I was mostly going by feel. My duck was a huge portion and did taste good. I'd never had duck a l'orange before, so I can't compare it to anything else.

Tara "really wanted to love" her coq au vin, but didn't. She said the chicken was a bit dry, but the sauce made up for it. I tried it and it was ok, but again, never had it and can't compare it to anything. Seth said his pork was bordering on tough, but that the reduction it had was "brilliant." The side of mac and cheese was bland for my tastes. I make my mac and cheese from scratch with extra sharp cheddar, so it could just be a personal taste. If you prefer yours with less of an edge, you might enjoy this. Seth's said his fries were perfectly cooked, but devoid of any type of seasoning. He salted them liberally and said that helped, but he really loved them with the remnants of the sauce on his plate.

Our waitress came back and asked if we were interested in dessert. I asked to see a menu and she produced the sample tray. There were three desserts on it, but the one that caught our eye was a chocolate profiterole. Tara and I decided to split that and Seth passed on dessert. The profiteroles were great. Three balls were covered in whipped cream and a delicious chocolate sauce. Tara and I devoured them in short order and I found myself scraping my fork on the plate to get the last of the chocolate.

Our service throughout the meal was outstanding. Our waters were always refilled as was Seth's Diet Coke. She was very friendly and her French accent added to the atmosphere. We sat around at talked long after we finished eating and before we knew it, it was 9:30 and we had to go home. Both Tara and I agreed that if a group was going to Fenix and we were invited, we'd go, but we wouldn't venture there on our own.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Palatte - Central Phoenix

Recently on the Southwest board on Chowhound, there's been quite a dust up over Palatte, a new breakfast/lunch/brunch place near downtown. It all started two weeks ago, when someone posted asking if anyone had gone. Tara and I looked at the link to their menu, and intrigued, we decided to try it last Saturday.

We got there around 1pm or so and found it to be fairly busy. It's located in an old house at the the corner of Filmore and 4th Ave. There is an extensive courtyard out side with lots of tables and comfy patio furniture. Inside, there is a large front room housing a long table, a couple small tables, a couch, and some chairs for waiting. A small bar area with coffee, tea, and the like is on the right side. A narrow hallway bisects the rest of the house, with the kitchen area in the right side, and the left side split again into a four table seating area and a small boutique in the way back. At the beginning of the hallway on the right is the counter where your order and pay, along with a small glass display case of the days pastry selection. Funky bathrooms are off the back wall of the boutique. Right next to the door is a stand containing metal hosptial-like clipboards containing the menu. On our first visit, a waiter explained procedure: grab a menu, decide what you like, and order at the counter, and take a seat. After you order, they give you a small stand with a numbered card to help the server deliver your order.

After looking over the menu, Tara decided to get The Carmelized Onion tarte: a tarte containing carmelized onions, eggs and crispy bacon on top. It included a choice of side salads and she got the fava bean salad. I got the Sausage "mish-mash", an egg scramble with grass-fed beef sausage, sweet plantains, black beans, almonds, and feta. It came with a choice of toast and choice of side. I opted for a sourdough bread and a fruit salad. We got water to drink.

After ordering, we were able to snag the last free table, a small round two-top in the corner of the small dining room. The large table in the front room seemed to be communal for smaller groups and single people. Our table was hidden from easy view, so some people missed it before us. A few minutes after we sat down, a server brought a large stoppered bottle of water and two glasses filled with ice. The water was somewhat cold, but the ice water chilled it nicely. It was obviously tap water, so when a waiter came by, I asked for some lemon slices. He returned a few minutes later with a single slice, realized that we probably wanted at least two slice, and grabbed us another one. That was the only glitch in the service for the visit.

Our meals arrived a few minutes later. Tara's tarte was a three to four inch square pastry shell with the egg and onion mixture filling it, topped with a small mound of bacon pieces. Her salad was off to the side on the same plate. I took a sample from a corner and thought it was great. The pastry crust had a great flavor and the eggs were very airy. I immediately wished my mish-mash had come in the same type of crust. She loved the dish.

My mish-mash was a good sized pile of the above ingredients. It was cooked perfectly and tasted great as well. The feta provided a wonderful sharp contrast to the rest of the dish and pushed it over the top. The fruit salad consited of nectarine, strawberry, and plum slices. There were much more plums than the other ingredients. The toast was very crispy and came with a tangy orange spread.

We had a great meal all around and decided that we really liked this place.

And then we got home and saw a posting from another CH person (and friend of mine) who had a horrible experience and walked out without ordering. I emailed her and told her she should give it another try, as we had a completely different experience. So she went back the next day, had another horrible time, this time including the food, and has since wrote it off. That kicked off a HUGE firestorm on the CH board, resulting in many moderator deletions of posts both for and against, various personal attacks from people who appeared to be Palatte shills, and just general ugliness. Most people seemed to have had great food, including us obviously. Knowing my friend as I do, I know she wasn't wantonly trashing the restaurant. She had bad experiences and if it had happened to me, I wouldn't blame her. Tara and I have a similar thing with Fate in the same neighborhood. We had horrible service and treatment, didn't like the food, and haven't been back. However, Fate has a huge following and most people love it, including my friend.

So cut to today. One of the people in our Chowhound Gathering group decided she needed to try the place for herself. She said she'd be there this morning around 8:30 after some shopping at the nearby farmer's market. Tara and I decided to go as well to see if we would have a positive or negative time.

We got there a little after 8:30. We didn't see any single women dining with a newspaper, as the other lady said she'd be doing. The restaurant was again busy and as we were looking over the menu, a waiter told us there was one last table in the other room if we wanted to grab it. We did and it turned out to be the same table as our first visit. I got The Sausage again, this time with potatoes as a side and whole grain toast. I also got an order of bacon. Tara opted for The Egg: house-made crème fraiche, bacon, garlic chives, roasted grape tomatoes, and puff pastry. However, to paraphrase Alton Brown, tomatoes are ALWAYS optional for us, so she asked that they hold them, which they did with no problem. She got the fruit salad this time. She also got an order of bacon.

My meal was better than the first time. The plantains seemed sweeter than last week and again, the contrast of the feta was perfect. The toast came with a very strong and tart currant spread. My potatoes were finely diced and heavily peppered. A few of them were under-cooked, but otherwise very good. The potatoes came with a ramekin of dreme fraiche for dipping, but I'm not a creme fraiche fan. Tara liked it though, so she she ate the potatoes, she used it.

Tara LOVED her Egg. A square puff pastry shell was filled with strips of bacon and a fried egg was on top of it. A couple chives were criss-crossed on top of the egg. Neither of us noticed any creme fraiche, but it didn't matter. Again, the pastry was perfect and the taste I had was heavenly. Her fruit salad was the same as I got last time, but with only three tiny pieces of strawberry and again a ton of plum slices.

Both our bacon sides were super crispy, but not burnt. It was a very good bacon. The only odd thing is that she got four slices and I only got three. However, I was in the bathroom when our meal arrived. Knowing what a bacon fanatic she is, I can only take her word that she didn't liberate my fourth slice before I got back.

So this visit confirmed our first one. It was nearly identical and we both loved the food. I'm curious to see how the other Chound's visit went and get her take. It's still high on our list. Our meal came to $21, which I consider a great value for what we got.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Every two weeks, the cleaners come to tidy up our place. We are usually too busy or too lazy to clean, and after a couple years of arguments, we decided to splurge on bi-monthly cleanings. It keeps the place clean and is one less thing we fight about. Unfortunately, I work from home now, as I no longer support the Phoenix location of the company I work for. I support their Minneapolis spin-off, and for obvious commute reasons, just work from home. That means I need to vacate the house a couple Thursdays a month to let them do their thing. Today I decided to go to Soma on Tatum and Shea for breakfast. They have free wi-fi, so I can log into work from there and be productive.

They are a healthy-eating place, so I opted for the French Toast. It's made with wheat bread. It's pretty good. I got the full-order of six slices. The restaurant is fairly big, with lots of tables and several couches and lounge chairs for relaxing with just a drink. There's a few TVs as well around the area. I grabbed a two-top near an outlet and setup shop while I waited. I got water to drink from the fountain.

In short order, my French Toast arrived. Six slices dusted with powdered sugar and garnish with a single strawberry half and two paper-thin Granny Smith apple slices. The server asked if I wanted regular or sugar-free syrup. I opted for regular. The artificial sweeteners all leave a horrid aftertaste in my mouth. The toast was done perfectly. I would have preferred maple syrup, but I survived. It's not the sublime cinnamon French Toast made with challah at JP Pancake, but they filled me up.

The menu is mostly healthy food, with oatmeal, granola, turkey wraps, and the like. I know I should have gotten that, but I'm still working on the whole "healthy eating" thing.

Not tonight though. We're heading to Fenix for some Gallic goodness. :)