Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Post Of The Year

December has been a pretty slow month, food-wise. We haven't really tried any new places for the most part. We did do lunch with some fellow foodies at Indulge Burger at Scottsdale and Shea last weekend and it was pretty good. We're going to try dim sum at Great Wall tomorrow. We tried it there a couple years ago and weren't impressed, but they've gotten some good marks lately, so we're giving it another try.

We found out we need to move out of our rental house at the end of our lease in January. We hate moving, but apparently the owners are moving back in. Luckily Tara still has some realtor contacts from her days in the mortgage business, and one of them is helping us look. We're kinda bummed, because we love the open floor plan of our current house and the quiet set-back cul-de-sac we live in. We're basically looking in the corridor between our current place (UH/Cave Creek Rd) and Tara's work (Raintree/101). Since I work from home, location isn't really an issue for me. We hope to start looking at places this weekend.

Tara's sister arrived in Arizona this past week to start a 2-month internship in Tucson. She's staying with some relatives down there. She spent Christmas with us (AWESOME apple cider-brined turkey) and will probably spend some weekends here as well. She goes to college in Florida so Tara rarely sees her. They are enjoying the bonding time. Theresa seems to have some OCD issues, as she feels the need to rearrange our kitchen cabinets and pantry. We're still looking for some stuff.

My family in Maine is enjoying the brutal winter so far. No power for days after the ice storm in Dec and tons of snow. We're planning on seeing them in Hatteras, NC, in April. My parents and aunt and uncle are renting a beach house. We're looking forward to it.

Hopefully 2009 will be less eventful than 2008 for us. I'm sure we'll find out soon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Satara Thai Restaurant - Peoria

Last night we tried Satara Thai in Arrowhead. I had bought a gift certificate for it from Restaurant.Com during their $25 gift cert for $2 sale back in October. They bill themselves as being a higher-end Thai place than normal and their prices reflect that. The quality of the food, however, does not. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

They are located in the restaurant row around 83rd Ave and Bell. They are set back from 83rd Ave south of Bell and are a bit hard to find. We eventually found them and entered. The space is very modern, with black-painted walls, a large section of waterfall glass, wine racks, and a stained glass window. It looks like they also have a patio in the back, but it was hard to see it after dark.

We were seated in the dining room and it was just under 1/3 full. It's not a huge space. We were given menus and wine lists to look over. The prices are almost shockingly high for a Thai restaurant. Tom Kha Gai is $14 and only in a bowl. Noodle dishes range from $13 to $17, salads $10 to $14, entrees $13 to $16, and even the fried rice dishes were $13 to $17.

We eventually settled on an order of chicken satay ($8.95), fried rice with crispy beef and basil ($12.95) for Tara, and musamun gai (chicken in a coconut milk, red curry sauce) ($14.95) for me.

We ordered the satay before we'd decided on our entrees, but it still took a while for it to come out. When it arrived, it was four large pieces of chicken on skewers, with small bowls of peanuts sauce and a sweet/spicy sauce. We each took a piece and dug in. Or tried to. I noticed I had a hard time cutting it. I turned my piece over, and it was solid black on the bottom. I checked the other three pieces, and all were the same. Burnt. For $9, this was unacceptable. We're sure it was no fluke that all the pieces had the nicely grilled side up when it was brought out. This dish should never have been put on our table. Tara said she wouldn't serve something like this at home. I shaved off the burnt bottom and the meat wasn't bad. A bit dried out, as you'd expect. The peanut sauce was really good, but didn't save the dish as a whole. I even turned all the meat I'd cut off so the black side was up, but the server made no mention of it when she took our plates away.

A little while later, our entrees came out. Tara's fried rice had a nice flavor, but the bits of beef seemed small to me. Overall she liked it, but felt it definitely wasn't worth $13.

My chicken was a bit aggravating. The square white plate had a colorful orange sauce covering the chicken, potatoes, carrots, and onions, with whole peanuts sprinkled over the top. The peanuts weren't mentioned on the menu, and I'm glad that while I can't eat them, I'm not actually allergic to them. I was able to eat around them fine. I noticed that the once piece of chicken I could see was a whole drumstick. As I dug in, I realized that ALL the chicken was in drumstick form, as three of them were lined up on the plate. This irritated me, as I felt really ripped off paying $15 for three drumsticks and some paper-thin vegetables. I got it mild and there was some heat to it, but nothing near the full flavors that good Thai and the price should warrant.

Service was ok. For the early part of our meal, a waiter came by, bringing us drinks and checking a few times to see if we were ready to order yet. When we were finally ready, we had to wait and eventually the waitress came over and took care of us for the rest of the meal. This seemed odd, as the waiter was still servicing other tables.

Satara serves their glasses of water with thin slices of cucumber in them. They said it gives them a crisper flavor. To me, it tasted like cucumber water. I like cucumber well enough, but not in my water.

Overall, we found Satara very over-priced and not worth the extra money compared to the alternatives. The burnt satay was completely unacceptable for nearly $10. The other items were good, but certainly nothing special. The bill came to $40, but with our gift certificate, it came to $15 plus tip. I would feel taken advantage of if I had actually paid full price for the meal. Osha, Thai House, Thai Basil, and Thai Pan are much better choices and far better deals.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chocolate Grand Marnier Balls Recipe

My first year in Dallas, I found this recipe in the paper. It seemed pretty easy so decided to try them. The first attempt burnt out a brand new Hamilton Beach food processor I grabbed at Wal-Mart. I returned it (love their return policy) and grabbed a Black & Decker model that lasted me nearly a decade before the cover to it's bowl melted in a dishwasher accident. I currently use my nice and brawny, yet slightly homicidal, bright red KitchenAid food pro. Despite the accident with the blade that sliced my finger open and also saved my life, I love it. Tara is scared of it and if you'd seen the amount of blood in the sink and bathroom at my old apartment, you'd understand. But I digress...

This recipe is incredibly easy, but does more or less require a beefy food processor. A direct drive model, nothing with a belt. You basically just mix all the ingredients together, roll them into balls, roll them in powdered sugar, and put them in an air-tight container for 5-7 days. They aren't baked, so the Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur) permeates the balls. They were usually a hit among my coworkers, but productivity declined as consumption increased.

Triple Sec orange liqueur works great in this recipe and is in fact the one I used nearly all the times I've made it. I found that I still had my Grand Marnier bottle, so I used it for this batch.

Chocolate Grand Marnier Balls

One 9 ounce box of chocolate wafers
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup almonds
2 tablespoons Karo
1/2 cup Grande Marnier

In a food processor:
Process wafers and almonds. Add powdered sugar. Add the rest. Mix till
moist mass. Roll into balls and roll in some more powdered sugar. Pack
them lightly in an air-tight container. For best results, let them sit for
5-7 days.