Saturday, November 29, 2008

They are getting closer...

After calling Shish Kebab House a couple weeks ago and getting a live person who said they should be re-opening in November, we drove by today to check the progress. They still aren't open, but there is a real Shish Kebab House lighted sign mounted on the new location and a coming soon sign still in the window. So they are progressing, but apparently aren't quite on their projected schedule.

We made do with a late lunch at Z's Greek on Indian School around 40th Street. We got our usual and it was terrific as always.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Maizie's Cafe

Whenever we dine out with our friend Winedubar, she always, ALWAYS, knows about half the people who come into the restaurant. Our dinner at Noca (mmmmmm Noca.....) was no exception. One of her friends there was Maizie, who Winedubar said runs a great little cafe just south of Camelback on Central. Tara wanted to get out of the house on Sunday, so we headed down to Maizie's Cafe for lunch.

Mazie's is a cute little space on the end of an tiny strip mall. We started to sit outside, but the strong cigarette smoke drove us back inside. The place was mostly full with the lunch crowd, but nearly every party was winding down when we arrived.

The menu has a large selection of sandwiches, salads, burgers, and pizza. It sort of reminded us of Flancer's a little bit, but not quite as funky. The sandwiches are available on a wide choice of breads, and a variety of styles: wrap, sandwich, or panini.

We eventually settled on a couple of sandwiches. Tara got the Pineapple Chicken Salad (toasted slivered almonds, fresh pineapple, and crisp lettuce) on ciabatta. I had the Milano (genia salami, capicolla, smoked ham, provolone cheese, red onion, sliced tomato, pepperoncinis and lettuce drizzled with classic italian dressing) on panini bread panini style. We both chose the hand-cut french fries as our side.

The sandwiches came out a few minutes later. Both looked great. Tara took a bite of hers and declared it was the best chicken salad she's ever had. Mine was grilled nicely. The bread had grill marks and was crunchy. The various meats had great flavor and there was some heat from the pepperoncinis and capicolla. The fries were outstanding. Crunchy on the outside and cooked on the inside. They have an chipotle dipping sauce available that spice-phobic Tara was really enjoying despite the burn.

Service was good. At the start when the restaurant was busy there were understandable lags, but otherwise it was fine.

We really enjoyed our meal. The portions were generous and we both left stuffed. The best part is that even with Tara's Coke, the bill with tax was only $20.85. Given the quality of the food and quantity, it's a screaming deal. They also have a Monday Happy Hour special where you can get a burger for $3. I actually drove down there tonight to try a burger, but they were packed and I didn't see any close parking. It was nice to see them busy, especially in this economy. I should have plenty of time to get back and try their burger.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Noca - Phoenix/Paradise Valley

One of the most talked about restaurants this year has been Noca. Chowhound has been rife with Noca reviews and they have all been gushing. Our good friend Winedubar has been many times since they opened in September and has regailed us with descriptions of her meals there. She can be evil that way. With all the job issues and related money shortage, we hadn't been able to try them until last week. Winedubar had been for their first "Lobster Roll" night and raved about it. Being a native Mainer and lobster roll lover, I knew I had to try it. It's currently available every Wednesday night. Now that our finances have started to even out, Tara and I decided it was time to try Noca, and picked a Wednesday. Since our friend Seth was still on his honeymoon in beautiful Montreal (or so we thought), we invited Winedubar to join us. She jumped at the chance.

The short review: Wow. Go. Now.

For those needing more verbosity, I'll do my best. I won't be able to do justice without pictures of the dishes we had. Everything was presented perfectly, sometimes playfully. Many were "deconstructed". All were even better on the palate.

Before the meal, we were each .given a palate cleanser. It had pomegranate fruit, a cheese, a balsamic reduction (which I think mine was missing) and something else. It was all served in a big spoon. It was an incredibly intense flavor and did a good job of getting us ready for the meal.

For starters, Tara had the new-to-the-menu Roasted Chestnut soup. Winedubar had the seared fois gras. I had the duck confit. I only had a couple small tastes of Tara's soup, but it was my favorite item of the night. I'm not sure I can even describe it. My taste buds just sighed in delight. My duck confit looked like a meat lolipop. The leg bone stuck out of a flattened hunk of perfectly crispy on the outside, moist on the inside duck. Juicy, salty, with a great crispy flavor. I wanted the rest of the duck. This was my close second for best of the night. Never having had fois gras before, Tara and I were hesitant to sample Winedubar's "meat butter", as she put it. The bites we had essentially converted us. Ultra-rich, it was as good as W desribed it.

For mains, we each ordered the lobster roll. I've been eating lobster since shortly after I learned to breathe. The lobster meat in the rolls was poached perfectly and is the tenderest lobster I've had in a roll. Mixed with various herbs and celery root, it was served on a roll that had been fried in herbed butter. There were lots of flavors going on, but the lobster meat wasn't overpowered. The texture of it all was outstanding. My only complaint is it isn't a huge roll, and I finished it in no time at all. More, please.

The lobster roll was served along with Duck Fat French Fries. You could definitely tell these weren't your ordinary specimens. They had a distinct extra flavor from the duck fat. I'm still not sure if I liked it or not. It was different and I had a hard time processing, as I was still blissed out on the lobster and duck. Tara and Winedubar loved them.

Minor update to the original post: Tara reminded me that I forgot to mention the sour apple cotton candy that was served between the main dishes and dessert. It was a big bowl of light green heaven. It helps that I love cotton candy. :)

Desserts were, for me, the weakest part of the meal, but that isn't to say they were a let down. Tara got the donut holes with three dipping sauces. This was my top dessert. The donut holes reminded me of the homemade ones Mom would make during our Fall cider pressing parties growing up. I'd thought about ordering them myself, but opted for the apple "risotto", I think it was. I'm can't remember all that was in it. It was good. Winedubar had the deconstructed cheesecake. Three round scoops of cheesecake filling, a pineapple puree of sorts, a pile of cinnamon graham cracker "crust" and drizzles of a sauce. It was good as well. I'm VERY particular about my cheesecake due to an idealized flavor and texture I had growing up. This was good, but it wasn't how I like mine. Tara and Winedubar had no such hangups, and both loved it.

Service was excellent. Our server is also happened to be a chef in his own right, just not at Noca. He was extremely funny and offered/threatened to give Tara a table dance, as we were celebrating her birthday. Thankfully, she didn't take him up on the offer. The host stopped by frequently to make sure everything was going ok. The restaurant was a bit noisy for most of the meal, but quieted down after a large party left. The dining room is very nice, with huge mirrors lining the walls.

When all was said and done, our bill came to $165 for the three of us. We had no complaints about the price. We were all stuffed and endorphins were running high.

We pretty much loved everything about Noca. Tara proclaimed it as the best meal she's had since we've been together. I can't really disagree. We ran out of ways to praise the meal on the drive home.

The best part is that we have reservations for their Simple Sunday Dinner next weekend. They are serving the sous chef's grandmother's fried chicken recipe. We've been assured by Winedubar that it's to die for. After having eaten one meal at Noca, we are sure we'd die happy.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fusion Sushi - Scottsdale

Last night Tara and I used the second of the three Restaurant.Com gift certificates we bought during their sale. This one was for Fusion Sushi in Scottsdale. It's located in the Target/Albertsons plaza on the SE corner of the 101 and Frank Lloyd Wright. It's a fairly new restaurant that specializes in Chinese and sushi. My main interest is that it is close to Tara's work and would be a good place to have dinner on nights she works late. The cheap gift certificate seemed like the perfect time to try it.

We arrived about 8pm and only a couple tables were occupied. Three or four people were sitting at the sushi bar that ran in an L-shape along the right side in front of open kitchen. Over the course of the dinner, several more tables filled up. We were seated promptly and looked at the menu.

It's a fairly straight forward menu. Lots of Chinese dishes, some specialty dishes that were house sauces with your choice of meat, some standard fried rice variations, and a long sushi menu. We started out by ordering the Chef''s appetizer combo (2 crab puffs, 2 vegetable egg rolls, and two steamed dumplings) while we decided on our main dishes as Tara was starved. We also got a Pepsi and a Sierra Mist for Tara and myself.

The app combo came out pretty quick, before we had actually decided on the rest. Our waiter dropped it off and let us have time to look the menu over some more. We decided on walnut prawns for Tara and I got a couple maki rolls, the Shrimp Crunch (shrimp tempura roll with crunchys on top) and a Sakura roll (tuna, salmon, white tuna, crab meat, albacore wrapped in cucumber). We set our menus on the outer edge of the table, ate the combo, and waited for our waiter to come back.

He was standing in the entry to the kitchen chatting with the waitress. He looked up, saw us eating with the menus set aside, and kept talking. He walked by our table, made eye contact with me, and went to the host stand to hang around. He then seemed like he was going to stop by, only to go and start talking to a girl sitting at the sushi bar about checking out apartments in the complex she worked in nearby. She gave him her card, and he then walked by us again to the front of the restaurant and chatted with the host, showing him the business card. Eventually he appeared to remember he was at work and decided to stop by and see if we were ready to order yet. He took our order and left.

The appetizer combo was good. The items all tasted fine and there were three sauces (mustard, duck sauce, and dumpling sauce) to dip in. We liked them, but Super Dragon has better ones for less.

Once we finished, they cleared the plates and our meals came out shortly after. Tara's walnut prawns were a deceptively small looking dish. A mound of shimp covered in candied walnuts were in the middle of the plate, with brocolli arrayed along the ends. I tried a shrimp and they were really good. Tara didn't think they'd fill her up, but in the end, she gave up with four shrimp left. She like them as well, although there might have been just a bit too sweet for her savory tastes.

My rolls came out a few minutes later. The Sakura roll was five pieces arrayed around a small bowl of some kind of sauce. It was never explained what kind of sauce it was. Small plastic swords (think garnishes for polynesian fruity drinks) were stuck through each piece to hold it together, a nice touch. Small dabs of different colored roe topped each piece. The roll was good, but the cucumber flavor and watery texture overpowered the fish flavors. Everything tasted fresh, but I think I would have preferred a regular nori wrapping. The Shrimp crunch roll came on a long, narrow dish. It was cut into 8 or 10 pieces, liberally sprinkled with crunchies and drizzled with eel sauce. It also was somewhat cold, like the sushi rice or eel sauce had been chilled. Or that it had been sitting under the a/c vent. The shrimp inside was warm, but the outer temperature seemed way too low. It tasted really good, but would have been much better at a normal temperature.

Overall, our meal wasn't bad. Service was somewhat lackluster. There was nothing wrong with the food. The bill came to $44 before the $25 gift certificate. We both felt it wasn't worth $44. At $26 after tip, it seemed like an ok value. We can stuff ourselves at Super Dragon with better tasting food for $26. The sushi rolls were nothing special and for similiar sushi prices, we can go to Hana and get fabulous sushi. Tara said she might stop in for their lunch specials, but we won't be back for a full-priced dinner.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Decision '08

Well, there should be a Widget here...

Monday, November 3, 2008


If you don't, you've got no right to bitch later about who won.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A little from column A, a little from column B

Wow, it's been a month since I updated. Bad, Tim. Here are some stream of thought updates...

First, a fond farewell to my sister's awesome standard poodle, Chattee. After 13 years, my sister had to put her to sleep a couple weeks ago. Everybody's friend, she was about all anyone could ever want in a dog. Shes was always friendly and just happy to be around people. We played many hours of fetch and I'm gonna miss that. I'm not going to miss her chronic, as Jen put it, "dragon breath".

Urban Campfire in Tempe reopened in a slightly renovated form, but the food has suffered. The menu is more compact, some of the nice extras are gone, and you can tell that Robert has left the building. Tara had some sliders and I tried a burger. Tara enjoyed her sliders. I've never had a worse burger in a restaurant, let alone one the specializes in grilled meats. They even tried to make me a second one, but it was only marginally better. They both had a horrible burned, acrid taste. They did bring me a free beef slider while I was waiting for the second burger that was good, but overall Tara and I won't be back. There are better burgers around and better bbq to be had not too far. We are sorry we only visited the original incarnation a few times. was having a special where you could get $25 gift certificates for only $2. While there weren't a ton of places we were interested in, we snagged a few. The first one was for Il Posto at 7th St and Mountain View in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix. We got therre after 8 and it was kinda slow. The staff was great and we ordered the stuffed mushroom appetizer, lobster ravioli for Tara, and their white pizza with added pepperoni for tomato-phobic me. The mushrooms were way overpriced at $7.99. Four small button mushrooms were in a huge serving dish that was about 5 times too large. They were not really memorable. We only got it to fulfill the $35 min for the gift cert. Tara loved her lobster ravioli and I tried some as well. It definitely had lobster in it. I adored my white pizza. Four cheeses, fresh garlic, and I think some herbs, along with the extra pepperoni, made for a great meal. It was just as good cold the next morning, part of my criteria for great pizza. The crust was crunchy and chewy with a nice flavor. They also didn't skimp on the garlic. They had a free bread and pesto that were very tasty as well. So except for the mushrooms, we really enjoyed our visit and will be back.

Some great news for fans of Shish Kebab House in Glendale. Friday night, Tara was lamenting their absence of late as their move to a new location appeared to be stalled. The last time we saw their new location, it was basically white walls and nothing really done. That lasted for a few random scoutings since they closed in February. We'd given them up for dead. Just for fun, I called their number to see if the answering machine had any updates. I was SHOCKED when a real voice answered at 8pm. I thought it was the wrong number. It was the correct one, and the gentleman who answered said they should be open sometime in November (aka this month). We were very happy to hear that.

For lunch today, Tara suggested Mr Greek. We stopped in, only to find it's been renamed "Z's Greek". Luckily, it appears to be the same owner and nothing else is different. We had our usual and it was awesome as always. We're both still stuffed. I did opt for a small greek salad instead of fries, and got a nice sized salad loaded with feta crumbles. Tara loved the cheese and kept taking bites.

Last but not least, many happy wishes to our good friend Seth, who finally tied the knot with his beloved J yesterday. We were unable to travel to SoCal for the wedding, but it seems to have gone off without any major hitches. We aren't sure if they headed to Montreal for the honeymoon yet or not, but we are very jealous of that. We can't wait to hear the wedding stories, as Seth's friends and family are usually quite entertaining.