Sunday, March 25, 2007

Noodles Ranch / Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen

Not much new happening. We hit a couple of our reliable spots this weekend. Tara was in the mood for "gross Chinese food". Unfortunately, I don't know any such places. She did suggest that any Asian would do, so we choose Noodles Ranch at Scottsdale and Thomas. It's one of my favorite Vietnamese spots in Phoenix and the only one Tara dares go to. They are very clean and the interior is nice and bright. The food is always great. We ordered both spring and egg rolls, I got the bun Hanoi and she got a beef stir-fry of some type. The spring rolls came three to an order and were freshly rolled, with pork and shrimp. I loved them. The peanut sauce was good as well. Tara isn't keen on fresh mint, so she picked it out before eating it. The egg rolls also came as a threesome with nuac mum. They were fried perfectly. The interior contained the usual pork with carrots and other veggies mixed in. I love Vietnamese egg rolls done right. They still aren't quite as good as the homemade ones one of my friends' parents made once, but still right up there. My bun had grilled pork and meatballs over the noodles, with some cucumbers, pickled carrots, and bean sprouts for good measure. I like mine in a big bowl and pour the sauce over it. The meats were cooked just right today. The total came to around $30 before tax with a couple drinks. It's a bit more expensive that the usual Vietnamese restaurants, but the quality and service more than makes up for it.
For dinner, we went to Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen on Camelback. A friend of Tara's is working there again and Tara told her we'd come down for dinner. We got there at 8:30pm or so, and they were packed. A live musician was playing in the main dining room. Tara's friend was bartending, so we sat at the far end of the bar. Tara had the pork chop that was the nightly special and I had Serena's Combo, which is a bowl of gumbo and a bowl of jambalaya. Each came with a salad. The pork chop ended up being a huge, two-inch thick monster. She loved it, but didn't come close to finishing. I polished off my gumbo and part of the jambalaya. It seemed spicier than usual, but it was still good. We tried the bread pudding for dessert. Neither of us had had it before. It was good, but we ended up being way too full to finish.
Both restaurants well worth hunting down. Baby Kay's has nightly specials. The seafood enchiladas on Tuesday are awesome. My team lead at work always gets them when he's in town from Cali. The Wednesday ribs are good as well, but since we're in crawfish season, they have boils through May I believe. One of the desserts is a huge sundae with a Jack Daniel's sauce over butter pecan ice cream. That's worth the trip all by itself.
Noodles' menu is smaller than most Vietnamese restaurants, but it's all good. I also like Da Vang on 19th Ave south of Camelback, but the neighborhood and decor kinda scare Tara. I still miss my Dallas favorites, but these are pretty good replacements.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


After trying to make tom kha kai a few times with varying success, I decided to try to make miso soup. I figured it couldn't be quite as complicated as the Thai soup. What I didn't realize who simple it is. Get some dashi (I used dried), some miso paste, and water. It was pretty anticlimactic. Boil the first two, and add the third. It came out almost perfect the first try. I added some dried seaweed when serving, but held off on the tofu. Now all I need to do is work on my homemade sushi. The last time I tried just went badly...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hummus - Is it just us?

Hummus is something that I've only discovered fairly recently. For some reason, pureed chickpeas didn't hold any special allure for the longest time. Then my girlfriend and I went to the Pita Jungle in Scottsdale. She'd told me how good the hummus was there. I was addicted. The service would suck, but the hummus was always top notch.
Then her best friend told us about this place in Glendale she'd tried with her boyfriend. They said the Shish Kabob House at 51st Ave and Olive/Dunlap (I forget which it is there) had amazing hummus. After a few months, we finally decided to try it on a whim. Shish Kabob's interior screams at me that it used to be a Japanese restaurant. The hummus was indeed incredible. Creamy, flavorful, and the bowl was usually cleaned down to the enamel. The rest of food was good as well. I love the gyros and my g/f loves the koubedah. But the hummus is what draws us from our N. Phoenix base of operations.
I generally pour over any restaurant reviews I can get my hands on. The New Times, AZCentral, Chowhound, you name it. So whenever we see a place that gets raves for hummus, we like to try it. Sadly, we've been let down by each and every one compared to Shish Kabob House. Sabuddy, Persian Room, Doobys. I lose track of all the places. Sabuddy's just struck us as odd. The tahini sauce pooled in the middle just overwhelmed the rest of it. Persian Room and Dooby were just tasteless.
So tonight my g/f had a hankering for hummus. On the way to SKH, we got to wondering. Is it just us? Do SKH and Pita Jungle, the only two places where we actually like the hummus, do it differently than the rest of the world? Our only real exposure to hummus has been in the Valley. How can so many other places get raves, yet we'd enjoy kindergarten paste more?

The First

Don't expect anything fancy or world-shattering. I mostly plan to post about restaurants I try and food I make at home. I'm currently about to enter my fourth year living in Phoenix. As the blog title suggests, I'm originally from Maine. Georgetown, ME, to be precise. A nice sleepy coastal town with no traffic lights, one general store (for sale the last I visited), no gas station, and a 5-star New American restaurant, The Robinhood Free Meetinghouse. Or as my best friend calls it, the Not-So-Free Meetinghouse.
Growing up Maine in the 70s and 80s, pizza, Italian food, and Chinese food were pretty much the exotic cuisines available. Pepperoni, pasta, and pu-pu platters. Once in high school we visited Boston's Chinatown for a school trip. After making it through the legendary, and now defunct, Combat Zone, we entered Chinatown. For dinner, we went to a restaurant that whose name I never learned, but remember well. It was the first time I had an egg roll that wasn't frozen. It was huge, maybe the size of my fist, and the taste and texture captivated me. No nasty preservative aftertaste. The entrees we shared went way beyond my staple of sweet and sour chicken. Fragrant brown sauces and garlic sauces. They certainly didn't make it this way at The Atrium in Brunswick. My taste buds were intrigued, and thus began a my love of Asian foods. Although Chinese is no longer among my favorites, it was the first to open my eyes.