Kirk and Cathy are really busy right now. Ed (from Yuma) not so much, so you get to read about a meal he and Tina recently consumed. Hope you enjoy.
One of the numerous benefits of marriage is that you have wedding anniversaries – it's like adding an extra holiday to each calendar year. Another cause for celebration.
But Tina and I couldn't figure out where to go for dinner. In addition to dining at the Patio at Desert Hills, we had been to River City for my birthday and Crouse’s Flat Top Grill for Tina's, and currently Yuma doesn't have a lot of special occasion dining choices. So . . . I finally suggested that we try Julieanna's. After all, our last bad experience there was at least seven or eight years ago; maybe that was too long to hold a grudge.
Julieanna's (website) is a large restaurant with patio located on 25th St. among doctors’ offices and other healthcare facilities. On this cool and breezy evening, the entrance was welcoming: We arrived around 5:30 on a Tuesday evening, so there were very few patrons in the two large interior rooms: On this evening nobody sat outside, so the resident peacock stared wistfully into the room, aware that he was not going to get any table scraps:
Our meal started with three fresh warm dinner rolls (Tina grabbed one before I could take the picture):
They were pleasant and were accompanied by two little metal ramekins of soft butter, one garlic herb and one maple cinnamon.
It took us a while to figure out what we wanted, but we finally decided on a salad, an appetizer and two entrées. Our very friendly and helpful server suggested that we start with the salad, which she could bring right away, and then follow with the appetizer. That made sense, so soon she brought over two plates of pear and candied walnut salad:
It was excellent. The tangy balsamic dressing complemented the sweetness of the pear and nuts. We were also impressed by the very fresh and sturdy baby lettuces in the salad.
Then the appetizer, fried calamari, arrived:
The squid was superb. The breading was hard and crunchy and most of it stayed attached. The calamari itself was clean tasting and tender chewy. Really perfectly done. The netting on the lemon wedges keeps lemon seeds out of the food, and there was a choice of dipping sauces – a spicy marinara or honey sesame.
Since we would be eating seafood, and I wanted a meat entrée, picking a wine was difficult, but I hoped that this Château Ste Michelle Riesling would work:
The riesling, which went well with the calamari, was crisp and moderately sweet, the wine bucket was fine, but the stemware was pretty ordinary.
For an entrée, Tina had chosen the crab two ways, with a pair of crab cakes and a tempura softshell crab:
Here you can see one of the cakes and the whole crab more clearly: Tina was pretty happy. The lightly dressed greens and perfectly cooked yellow squash went well with the crustaceans. She also enjoyed the contrast between the two styles of crab. On the other hand, I thought the crab cakes were a little fishy tasting and the deep-fried softshell too greasy. Maybe the riesling wasn't the right wine for this entrée; a drier white like a sauvignon blanc might have been a better match.
I had chosen the pork chop, which showed up looking really wonderful:
Here's another view:
I loved everything on the plate. The mashed potatoes were buttery and mixed with strips of caramelized onion. Rich, creamy, and nicely textured and flavored. The three large asparagus spears were perfectly cooked, tender but not limp. The dark paste smeared on one end of the pork was a medjool date sauce whose sweetness matched perfectly with the umami of the pork.
And the chop itself was outstanding – thick, flavorful, nicely seasoned, and perfectly cooked:
And this entrée went very well with the riesling.
The check seemed reasonable considering the quality of the food, service, and ambience:
The only odd thing on the bill was the “service charge,” an automatic 6% added to the food and beverages. I don't recall ever seeing such a thing in another restaurant.
Nonetheless, we had a great time, and maybe Tina and I should make celebrating our anniversary at Julieanna’s an annual affair.
Julieanna’s Patio Café, 1951 W. 25th St., Yuma, AZ 85364, (928) 317-1961.
Ed (from Yuma) shares a fancy omakase dinner with Tina – and now with you, dear reader. Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will share something different.
It was a dark and stormy night, after a dark and stormy drive over to San Diego, so Tina and I were happy to walk into the clean well lighted space that is Kokoro (website). We'd made an early reservation so Ishito-san had no other customers at the bar when we arrived:
Both Kirk and I have posted about omakase experiences here, so Tina and I wanted the top-of-the-line omakase and ordered it three days in advance.
The meal started with a simple looking mushroom appetizer – enoki and sliced oyster mushrooms in beautiful little bowls:
That pic doesn’t show much food, but the shrooms were lightly sauced and had an earthy/woodsy flavor. Nice modest beginning.
Then bowls showed up with a large oyster cut into three pieces, flanked by little pieces of dark seaweed, and topped with a blast of ginger:
The concentrated flavor of the ocean.
About this time I ordered 6 oz Kikusui sake:
It was cold, smooth, and altogether pleasant.
Our sashimi plate was a thing of beauty:
The maguro was exceptional and deeply flavored. The uni was good, of course, and the tako had a nice balance between flavor and chewiness. Even the scallop, which was pretty bland really, tasted fresh and tender. I should add that the wasabi was quality as well, hot spicy with bits of real wasabi throughout.
Here's another view of the plate:
Ishito-san was proud of the white fish selection. "Five different fish, all different flavor and texture." The hamachi was what you'd expect, fresh tasting, firm, and rich. The hirame (right behind the octopus) had firmer texture and deeper richer flavor than expected. I'm pretty sure that the slices were endawa, dorsal fin muscle, which I have not had since Wal Mi Do closed. Both Tina and I enjoyed the range of flavors, textures, and richness among the five.
The last item on the platter was maybe the most amazing of all:
I have never had or seen two toned tuna before. And yeah, real good and real rich.
It was time for a change of pace, so we were pleased to see a small covered bowl set in front of each of us:
Inside was a deceptively simple looking clear broth soup:
The cube was a piece of crab and seafood cake, mild and tender. The green herb was very strong flavored and contrasted nicely with the cake. But the key to the whole dish is the thin golden brown oval on the bottom of the bowl – a slice of bottarga – salted, cured, pressed, and aged mullet caviar. When you bite into it, it dissolves into a myriad of minuscule fish eggs.
The next course was one of our favorites, a complex autumn/winter stew that seemed perfect for a rainy evening:
The two main ingredients were pieces of crunchy fried fish and thick succulent tender slices of beautifully braised daikon. They were accompanied by gobo root matchsticks, fried slices of lotus root, a couple of candlenuts, and a few salmon eggs. The flavors, textures, and colors of the stew made this a big winner for both of us.
At this time, our hashi were replaced with new ones. “Why?” crossed my mind briefly, and then an amazing beef salad was set before us:
The steak was exceptionally tender, deeply flavored, and rich. The greens with their fresh and sometimes bitter flavors provided contrast. And the yuzu based steak sauce/salad dressing went with both, its tang balancing the rich meat. "That's wagyu beef from Japan,” Ishito san said, “Grade A5, the best." We believed him. It was good.
Then Tina and I each got a couple slices of fried monkfish accompanied by ponzu:
Okay, but not especially memorable.
The sushi course was the last savory part of the meal. It looked pretty ordinary:
However, it was quite good. The anago was sprinkled with coarse salt and was fresh and meaty tasting. The saba had been lightly cured so we could taste real mackerel flavor. The unusually large ebi, never a favorite sushi of mine, was wonderful here. We were told to use no shoyu, which seemed odd, but the shrimp were so fresh, meaty, and sweet that Ishito san wanted nothing to mask that taste.
The meal concluded with a choice of Italian style ice creams or sorbet. Tina loved her raisin and vanilla bean ice cream:
And I was blown away by the green apple sorbet:
Overall a great meal.
Kokoro, 3298 Greyling Dr. Ste. B, San Diego, CA 92123, (858) 565-4113
Hope 2017 is going well so far. Today it's Ed (from Yuma) blogging here. Tomorrow it'll be Kirk or Cathy. Thanks for reading the blog.
In 2013, Yuma changed for the better when Red Rose, a Thai restaurant, opened off of Fortuna road in Foothills. The food was generally good, and it was one of the few places with many choices for vegetarians and vegans. So I was worried last summer when our server told us that new ownership would be taking over. The good news was that the new owner was already the chef at Red Rose.
A new ownership with a new menu means it's time for a new post.
Except for the name change, the exterior looks much the same:
As you can see from these two pictures of the interior, there's not a lot of change there either: Something else that has not changed is the restaurant's BYOB policy, customers can bring their own bottles of wine and Yuma Thai Cuisine will provide glasses etc.:
But I would not recommend bringing a Chardonnay; here I speak from experience, trust me.
There are some significant differences like the huge mugs for ice water:
That picture was taken on my first visit after the ownership change, so I requested lemon. There was no need for it, however, because that's not water straight from the tap, but fresh tasting, very quaffable H₂O. Particularly great during our summers when I can get thirsty just walking from car to restaurant.
This entrée of basil eggplant reflects other changes: The menu (website) has been tweaked. For example, the featured eggplant dish used to contain deep fried slices (think tempura) covered in a Thai style brown sauce, a nice combination of crunchy and smooth. YTC's eggplant dish is more of a standard stirfry, but the eggplant is still creamy and the flavor good overall. I also like that the "pick a protein" dishes provide the option of extra vegetables – as in this case – so that vegetarians or vegans don't have to have to overdose on tofu.
A couple of other differences you can see in this picture:
These days, YTC has a two-page lunch menu with lunch size portions of many dishes at lunch size prices. Some are noodle dishes, but the rest – like this one – are served with rice. Also different is the "brown rice" option. It used to be a nutty flavored and light brown; now it is what I call Korean purple rice.
All the lunch specials also include a small cup of very flavorful spicy tom yum soup with vegetables:
A similar broth highlights the mixed seafood soup:
The soup contained mussels, shrimp, scallops, and squid along with tomato wedges, mushroom slices, Thai basil leaves, and onion chunks. It was all good, fresh tasting and flavorful.
YTC also serves rice noodle soups that remind me ofphớ. The first one I tried was the beef noodle soup:
There was a lot to like. The broth, while not super beefy, was rich and sweet with the taste of anise. The rare steak was flavorful if not especially tender, and the meatballs were lightly spiced and not rubbery. Fried shallots, chopped cilantro, and a sprinkling of bean sprouts were fine.
The soup was served mild with no hot spiciness, but was accompanied by these condiments if I wanted to turn up the heat:
There was just one problem:
The noodles were overcooked, sometimes breaking apart. As I was leaving, the friendly server mentioned that the regular chef was out of town, and I suspect that was the problem because the noodles were perfect a couple of months later when I had the oxtail noodle soup:
And the chunks of oxtail were tender, rich, and succulent. Just wonderful soup.
Noodle dishes in general are a strong point at YTC. This is pad se eaw with chicken:
Overall good flavor, a nice range of ingredients, and the product of a hot wok. Much like this pad kee mao with shrimp:
The ultimate fried noodles are a curry flavored combination of egg, chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, veggies and noodles:
And I really love YTC's version of pad Thai, here with shrimp:
and here with pork:
The sauce is powerful and complex. There is the sweet tang of tamarind and rich umami flavor as well. Good with a lime squeeze. And the noodles masterfully prepared, al dente and toothsome.
The papaya salad always spicy is well done as well. When we request it, YTC happily will prepare a vegan version that's almost as good as the standard version. Sadly, my best papaya salad photo is what was left on the serving plate after four of us had hungrily attacked the salad:
Tina and I also liked the yum nua, the spicy Thai beef salad:
The lettuces were nothing special, but the steak strips were beefy and the salad crunchy and tangy, nicely balancing other dishes like noodles or curries.
While the chicken larb had many of the same flavors, on this night, the meat seemed a little dry:
YTC has many of the same curry options as before – such as this somewhat under flavored green curry with shrimp:
The shrimp and vegetables were great and the sauce creamy, but not a lot of green taste.
The jungle curry, here with tofu, is a new addition and is the only curry sans coconut milk: Again, my only complaint is a lack of intensity. Perhaps if we ordered the dishes at a higher spice level, the other flavors would be jacked up as well.
The menu has also been expanded with an entirely new section, "Thai specialties," which includes many new seafood entrées as well as this very enjoyable red curry duck:
Half of a boneless duck, deep-fried until crunchy crispy, served with pineapple chunks, tomato pieces, pepper strips, abundant Thai basil and a creamy red curry sauce. Our server said this was his favorite dish on the menu, and I can understand why.
We've also sampled a variety of the desserts, the least interesting being sticky rice and Thai custard:
Cool and refreshing in the summer, this dessert seemed more one-dimensional than the fried banana, sort of deep-fried eggrolls filled with soft fleshed banana:
But on this evening, the real winner was the mango sticky rice:
The mango was wonderfully ripe and partnered perfectly with the sweet creamy rice.
If you were a fan of Red Rose Thai, I'm sure you'll love Yuma Thai Cuisine. And if you have not tried this restaurant, you're really missing one of the highlights of the Yuma culinary scene. YTC serves some excellent quality dishes with preparations that you can't find anywhere else in Yuma County.
Yuma Thai Cuisine, 11274 S. Fortuna Rd., C1, Yuma AZ 85367, (928) 342-7777.
Kirk and Cathy are too busy resting or working, so today Ed (from Yuma) is busy writing.
The Musical Instrument Museum is a marvelous new Museum sitting out in the desert just off the 101 outerbelt northwest of Scottsdale:
In the Main Lobby, a large display features the motto of the Museum, pictures of people making music, and screens showing music making in action:
When you enter the museum, you are given headphones. Whenever you come up to a screen, the headphones let you listen to whatever music, whichever instruments are being played on the screen.
While there are areas devoted to Arizona music, famous musicians (like Elvis, Pablo Casals, “King” Sonny Adé), mechanical music, and special exhibits, most of the Museum is organized geographically. On our previous visit to MIM, Tina and I explored African and European music and were amazed by the range and depth of the presentations.
On this visit, we began with the Asian area – which like Asia itself – is huge. To give you a specific example of how the museum works, look at this picture of traditional Korean bells and gongs:
These amazingly large devices are modern versions of traditional temple instruments. The screen between them shows similar bells and pyeongyeong being played.
Just to the right of those, is an area that shows instruments from Korean Court music and folk music:
While many of the instruments in the museum are modern versions, you can see that some of them are historical. The museum explains and dates all items, so you don't confuse something made in 2009 with something made in 1009. On the screens, you can see several different short clips of the instruments being used in performance.
I was especially taken with these old Tibetan horns, which were so large that I couldn't get all of them in one photo:
After a morning wondering through Asia, we were hungry, and fortunately the MIM has a nice eatery, Café Allegro, which tries to use fresh, local, organic ingredients whenever possible.
I had the marinated chicken salad:
The chicken had a pleasant lime/cilantro marinade, the lettuces were very fresh, the chunks of tomato extremely flavorful, and the cauliflower, pepper, and zucchini added nice contrast. Sad to say, I don't remember the tomato vinaigrette (?) but I do remember really enjoying the salad.
Tina ordered the chicken breast sandwich:
She liked the pesto sauce and the freshness of the veggies. And the lightly battered sweet potato fries were excellent, flavorful and crunchy.
All in all we had a very good time at the Musical Instrument Museum.
MIM, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd, Phoenix AZ 85050, (480) 478-6000.
For dinner that evening, we had reservations at Tratto, also known as Tratto Bianco because it is owned and operated by pizza superstar Chris Bianco. After we returned from the long weekend, we found a story in the New York Times about him, the health struggles that forced him away from flour and ovens, and the opening of his latest restaurants. Worth reading.
On a previous visit to Phoenix, Tina and I had lunch at Pane Bianco, his sandwich shop in central Phoenix, so we were eager to try his latest venture. He opened a new Pizza Bianco in the Town & Country Center in Phoenix, and right next to it a trattoria, connected by two food preparation areas. This one on the pizza side:
this one on the Tratto side:
Tina and I began our meal with a delightful vermouth cocktail:
which gave us time to look over the simple one-page menu:
and to enjoy the complimentary pecans, walnuts, green olives, and cheese:
Let me apologize for some of the photos in this post. I forgot to do an exterior shot, and the restaurant was packed (we arrived before 5:30) so this is the only interior shot I can use:
If you are interested in looking at the interior/exterior, I recommend the Tratto website.
Also, as evening wore on, the ambient light decreased, so some pics are substandard – even by my standards.
Anyway, back to the food. We started with a salad – lemon cucumber, celery root, parsley, and red onion with a pleasant mild creamy vinaigrette:
Interesting and subtle. It's amazing how much taste parsley can have when it is not overwhelmed by other ingredients.
The bread, I love good bread and this was superb. A crunchy crust with a slight charred flavor reflecting a super hot oven; the crumb was excellent as well:
To accompany the dinner, we selected a Renato Ratti Nebbiolo (2014). While made from the same grape and from the same general area as a Barolo, this wine was fruity and not overpowering, going well with all our courses:
The next dish tasted a whole lot better than it looks in this picture:
The pasta, four long and thick candeles, had a nice firm chew, but the real hero of the dish was the pork Genovese sauce. The slow cooked onion based sauce was full of rich and tender braised pork. A real treat, something I've never had before, but something down-home and comforting nonetheless.
The lamb was one of the two mains that we ordered:
Again, much better than the picture. Braised leg of lamb had been placed in an extremely hot oven to sear the exterior, adding another dimension to the overall flavor. The large chunks of meat were fork tender and tasty. The fennel and radicchio added some texture and contrasts, and I'm sure the anchovy/lemon sauce contributed also.
The other main was a small chicken with a honey/chimayo chili glaze seared in one of those hot ovens:
It was extremely moist and wonderfully flavored. Since we had ordered so much food we went into a triage mode and saved most of this great chicken for our next night's dinner in Yuma. Day-old and cold, it was still great chicken.
As a side dish we had large slices of zucchini – again showing the effects of the oven – served with squash blossoms and mint:
It was okay.
The dinner concluded with a pear poached in port with a small scoop of Gorgonzola on the side:
It was a simple classic conclusion to our Tratto meal. While not everything was amazing, I was impressed by the quality of ingredients, the excellent service, and the food that felt 100% "authentic" and very innovative at the same time. Tina and I left full and smiling.
Tratto Bianco, 4743 N. 20th St. at Town & Country, Phoenix AZ 85016, (602) 296-7761
Just as they were opening at 11 AM, Tina and I drove up, parked the car, and came in through the side entrance:
The restaurant is a large, festively decorated space with high open ceilings:
but the weather was so nice we sat outside in the patio area:
As we were looking over the menu, we ordered a glass of white wine to share and were very pleased that our helpful young server brought it out in two glasses: In fact, we were thoroughly happy with the service at Buck & Rider even though our waitress confessed it was her first day on the job. She smiled a lot, worked hard to do well, and kept our water glasses filled.
The fried calamari with Thai dipping sauce showed up first:
This was good. The tender rings of baby squid were nicely crunchy and went well with the sauce. A pleasant amount of chili heat. At first I thought that came from the dipping sauce, but as we worked our way down to the bottom, we discovered a bunch of deep-fried jalapeno slices:
The gumbo followed the calamari, and the server split it into two bowls, so this is a half portion:
There is a lot to like here. Look at the thick dark roux, which was redolent with the flavor of filé. The sausage was excellent. In fact there was really only one shortcoming – a couple of my shrimp tasted off. They weren't terrible, and Tina said hers were okay, but still . . .
The meal ended on a better note with the smoked trout salad (again, this is a half portion):
Good stuff. The trout was nice and smoky, the lettuce fresh and crisp, and the avocado sweet and creamy. Pieces of olives and fennel added some complexity to the excellent preserved lemon vinaigrette. Tart enough, but not acidic. A good lunch overall.
After lunch, we were reminded that we were in the big city. We had parked adjacent to an area that said "FREE CHARGE." It took me a few seconds of puzzlement (if you're charged, how can it be free?) before I figured out what that meant. Anyway, when we came out, we found our RAV4 parked next to 2 Teslas on one side and a Bentley on the other. "Toto I don't think we're in Yuma anymore."
Buck & Rider, 4225 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85018, (602) 346-0110.
For dinner that evening, we went to Crudo, a place with a contemporary approach to Italian food. It fronts on the backside of a shopping area and presents a green and rustic exterior:
Inside, it is spacious, clean, modern, and well lit:
The seating along the sides of the room, where we sat, combined booth and chairs in a way that allowed for large groups or couples like us:
Upbeat 60s, 70s, and 80s soul tunes played in the background adding to the ambience. Tina and I chuckled because Buck & Rider had virtually identical music. Pleasant and friendly.
Our server, likewise, was pleasant and friendly as well as extremely competent and helpful. She brought us glasses of ice water, which were kept filled throughout the dinner, and Tina and I split a glass of vermentino while we looked over the menu:
The entrée items are divided into four categories, crudo (raw), mozzo (cheese), cotto (cooked), and griglia (grilled). While you could just order one or two entrées by themselves, any three choices per person were available for $35, four for $45, and five for $55. And it made no difference which categories.
As we were trying to sort things out, our server told us that the restaurant was offering a charcuterie plate as an appetizer, so of course, that's where we started:
And what a good start it was. Closest to the camera was a mild chicken liver mousse topped with the dice of pickled vegetables. Smooth and crunchy with a nice balance. On the right side of the plate, pork rillettes lay on apple marmalade. Again a pleasant combination. On the left, rustic pork pâté was covered with mustard sauce. A garlic aïoli and pickled peppercini slices sat on either side. Very tasty and enjoyable. The sauces complexified but did not overwhelm. Of course, the crunchy toasted slices of Italian bread went well with everything.
Speaking of going well with everything, we selected an unusual white wine to accompany dinner:
Luisa from the Friuli region of northeastern Italy is made with the rare ribolla gialla varietal native to the region. It tasted smooth and fresh, its fruit flavors and minerality going with the entire dinner.
Our two raw plates showed up at the table next. This is the albacore:
The tomato, cucumber, citrus and olive oil topping highlighted the freshness of the fish.
But the rich slices yellowtail were even better – controne, a flavorful Italian dried chile, gave some spice, bits of bottarga added a fishy saltiness, and chopped chives provided color:
After eating sushi and sashimi for over 30 years, these presentations were delightful.
The squid ink risotto tasted much better than it looked:
The dish had a good spicy seafood flavor, chunks of tuna adding taste and texture to the slightly al dente rice.
The house-made gargati pasta and mussels were served in a sauce made from uni and tomatoes and topped with basil and mint leaves:
Another unusual preparation that worked.
The semolina gnocchi was next:
The dumplings themselves were like little soft pillows, and the main flavors came from the topping of braised lamb neck and nectarine. Again an unusual flavor combination that enchanted my palate.
The dinner concluded with pork belly with smoked tomato agrodolce along with creamy polenta:
Another amazing plate. The richness of the polenta and pork contrasted with the sour/sweet spicy agrodolce that reminded both Tina and I – with our German backgrounds – of well prepared blaukraut.
We were stuffed and we were delighted. Overall a great meal. At a fair price:
Crudo, 3603 E. Indian School Rd., Suite B, Phoenix AZ 85018, (602) 358-8666.
Kirk and Cathy have better or more important things to do than post at mmm-yoso!!!, so today here's the first post from Ed (from Yuma) about food and adventures on his and Tina's recent trip to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.
On our way up, as usual, we had lunch at Sofia’s in Gila Bend:
Nice decor at the little restaurant:
The chips and salsa are always good:
We enjoy the three taco combination plate with the customer choice of any three tacos. On this visit Tina had two hardshell hamburger tacos (what tacos were for most of us back in the 60s and 70s) and a soft carnitas taco:
And I ordered a simple green chili burrito:
Sofia's is good Mexican food and service, often by Sofia herself.
Sofia's Mexican Food, 530 West Pima, Gila Bend, AZ 85337, 928-683-6382. Open Daily.
In the Past, Tina and I have focused mostly on the museum’s extensive collection of modern works and Spanish colonial art. This time, however, we wanted to explore the Asian section of the museum. They were having a special show for the art of Martin Fan Cheng:
This painting could be from a food blog:
These trout in a stream look photographic as well:
I was amused by a 1976 painting by Lu Yanshao that uses traditional Chinese techniques to picture "Electric Power Station in a Mountain Village":
We loved this contemporary cerulean ceramic bowl:
Completely different is this bodhisattva:
The museum explained that this holy figure is dressed in women's attire since achieving the status of bodhisattva allows one to transcend sexuality.
But my favorite item is in the permanent collection of the Museum, a remarkable piece entitled "Mass (Colder Darker Matter)":
It is like a giant mobile made from pieces of charred wood hung on nearly invisible wires and strings. As you move from place to place, it changes. Interestingly, the burned wood is what’s left of a rural church that ignited when struck by lightning. To me, this installation seems both ominous and numinous.
Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85004-1685 (602) 257-1880
This new pizzeria, featuring rustic 900° wood ovens and house made mozzarella, was our choice for our first dinner in the Phoenix area. The exterior seems pretty ordinary, but it is nice to see a doggie friendly patio in front:
The interior was brightly lit, tastefully simple, and full of customers:
Thursday Night NFL was on the TVs in the bar and numerous animated conversations were all going on simultaneously, so it was LOUD. Sitting outside on the back patio would have made conversation easier, but all the tables there were taken as well.
Of course, they have 36 beer taps and an extensive collection of bottled beers and wines as well. Tina and I had a couple of their lighter beer offerings:
As soon as we tasted our locally sourced Farmers Salad, we understood why the place is so popular:
This was extremely unusual and extremely flavorful. Batonettes of fresh mango and jicama dominated, with wafer thin slices of watermelon radish, a sprinkle of radish sprouts, small strips of red onion, and cilantro leaves all contributing. The cumin lime dressing was a superb match, tempering the sweetness of the mango and giving a nice flavor boost to the usually bland jicama. Amazingly good.
We ordered two different pizzas. I wanted to try the very basic Senza Formaggio vegan pie with mushrooms:
Tina and I wondered if we would like this at all, but it was very tasty. The focus was clearly on the wonderful crispy crunchy crust highlighted with the nicely herbed tomato sweet sauce and olive oil.
Tina was intrigued by the idea of the Spanish pizza with real Spanish chorizo, sliced almonds, Spanish black olives, and a mild harrissa sauce:
Tasting it was a real experience. To the eye, it looks like a pepperoni based pizza, but to the mouth, the flavor panorama was entirely different. The crunchy almonds were good, and the crust was magnificent.
We told our friends who were letting us use their North Scottsdale timeshare about Craft 64, they tried it, and Greg told me it was the best pizza they had ever eaten. Your results may differ, but it is damn good (can I say that?).
Craft 64, 6922 E. Main St., Scottsdale, AZ 85251, (480) 946-0542
Kirk and Cathy are doing something else today, so Ed (from Yuma) is posting.
Yuma is blessed with numerous Mexican restaurants, but seafood places are not common. Of course, there is Juanita's and usually one or two other seafood trucks, but Mariscos Mar Azul has been the premier local seafood house ever since it opened. But now with La Resaca, Yuma has two excellent options:
Located somewhat off the main drag on 3rd Avenue, where the Mad Greek used to be, La Resaca has a large main dining area with many modern booths:
a bar area with more tables:
and even a small stage for music some evenings:
When you sit down, you are soon served whole crunchy tostito rounds, a few saltines, flavorful and spicy salsa, and a bunch of lime wedges:
On my first visit, I decided to start with tacos:
They were served with a mayo based basic crema and a chipotle flavored one:
The shrimp taco was excellent, the flavorful fresh shrimp nicely breaded and perfectly cooked:
Similarly, the fish taco was about the freshness of the flavorful breaded fish rather than crunchiness:
And the mantarraya was also nicely prepared, full flavored but not too salty, fishy but not funky:
Food this good I wanted to share, so the next evening Tina and I showed up for dinner.
As appetizers, we picked tostadas. One was ceviche:
the other octopus:
The octopus was sliced well and had just the right amount of chew and mollusk flavor. We were especially impressed by the ceviche. The fish and vegetables tasted very fresh and the whole tostada had a very pleasant flavor and multiple textures.
That evening we also tried a couple of cooked seafood entrées. Tina chose the albañil, shrimp grilled with bacon, poblano and jalapeno peppers, and onions, served on corn tortillas:
The shrimp were well-prepared (not over-cooked) and the bacon and grilled vegetables really added to their flavor. Tina loved the abundant avocado, The rice was okay and the salad had no dressing – though I suspect we could have asked for some.
I had the pescado Veracruz:
I liked the fish preparation. There were four or five little filets of tilapia, lightly breaded and nicely grilled, covered with a very mellow Veracruz sauce, much like a ranchero sauce with onions, celery, green olives, peppers, and a lot of carrot slices. Good food.
On my next visit, I had to try a seafood cocktele; after all, La Resaca specializes in cruda (raw). They come in three sizes with your choice of mariscos – shrimp, octopus, oyster, scallop, and/or snail. I ordered a medium "campechana," a combination:
That is a nice looking cocktele:
The cooked shrimp were pristine and juicy. The scallops clean and fresh tasting. The octopus was fine. And the snail pieces (you can see one hiding under the scallop in that picture) added some chew if little flavor to the contents of the sundae glass.
I was especially impressed by the quality of the cocktele water. Smooth flavors of the sea, with a little lime tang, balanced by a touch of ketchup sweetness. My only complaint would be the lack of an oyster in the cocktele.
So when I got together for lunch with Greg, I made sure to order a half-dozen oysters:
They were very fresh and pristine, mildly flavored but distinctively oyster. Next time I will try some of the 10 bottles of salsa on the table to see which goes best.
That day Greg selected the house special tostada:
You can see why the folks at La Resaca choose this tostada for the first page of their menu. It is a combination of their basic cold mariscos along with avocado slices, onion slices, and a dice of vegetables . As tasty as it is attractive.
My first version of this post ended right about here, but Greg called me soon after I was finished (so I thought) and we decided to go back to La Resaca the next day. We tried three more dishes.
The first was fried calamari:
This was pretty standard stuff, might even have come from a Sysco truck. Strips of squid steak, decent texture but little flavor. The breading substantial and crunchy. Served with the chipotle crema and a first-rate cocktail sauce. Not bad at all.
Aguachile – the original red version – came next:
The cool lime and chile broth was just right for my tastes, tangy but not sour, picante but not fuego. There was plenty of avocado, sliced red onion, and seeded cucumber, but the real star of the show was, of course, the wonderful raw camarones:
Their fresh clean taste matched their impeccable white color.
Last to show up was caldo de siete mares (seven seas soup):
The best version I've had in the United States, for sure. And well presented. A good seven seas soup needs to have claws, legs or tentacles projecting out from the bowl. The seafood and tomato flavored broth contained sliced red onion, sliced poblanos and jalapenos, chunks of carrot, and chopped cilantro. Along with those veggies and that crab (what kind of crab is that?), the soup contained shrimp, mussels, clams, tilapia, octopus, and sea snails, and yes, that adds up to seven seafoods. It was good enough to remind Greg and I of our first bowls of siete mares over 25 years ago in a restaurant overlooking the Pacific right by Bufadora park near Ensenada.
As you can tell, I am delighted that La Resaca decided to locate in Yuma. With other locations in Calexico and El Centro, the restaurant has the experience to know how to do things right. The menu is large and interesting, everything I've eaten has been tasty, and the service and decor are good as well.
La Resaca, 1725 S 3rd Ave, Yuma AZ 85364, (928) 276-3280
Today Kirk and Cathy are busy. Ed (from Yuma) not so much, so he's posting.
Sakura. About a dozen years ago, when Kirk and I first ate at Sakura together, I had no idea that this Izakaya would be the restaurant most posted about at mmm-yoso!!! Of course I also had no idea that Kirk was going to be starting a food blog and that I would ever do a post for it. Long time ago.
Gleefully surprised to find an empty space in the lot, I parked, walked over to Sakura, tried the door, and learned that it doesn't open until 11:30. That explained the parking space. But I was content to sit down at an outside table, enjoy the pleasant weather, and wait.
When they turned on the sign and opened the doors, I knew what I wanted, tempura soba and iced green tea. The tea showed up first:
That's bright green.
Then the tempura soba:
This is an old favorite of mine. I love the textures – the crunch of the tempura, the juicy chew of the shrimp, and the gentle coolness of the buckwheat noodles in the broth. Contrasts of temperatures and flavors.
I also enjoyed the basic cabbage salad:
and the pickles and rice ball:
In some odd way, the simplicity of the lunch just seemed right.
Prime, in contrast with my lunch, would be a much more elaborate meal in a new Korean restaurant where Kirk, Cathy, and I had never eaten before. It was great for me to get together with Kirk and Cathy since I don't get to see them very much being stuck out in the desert. But we had a great time and a dang good meal. Cathy has already posted about it, so I’ll try not to repeat a lot.
Dipping sauces showed up first:
The little one in the middle was slightly sweet and was intended for the brisket slices which were not marinated. The largest bowl was my favorite sauce as it had some tartness that helped cut the richness of the beef. Also the crunch of onions added texture, and the sauce seemed to go with everything.
I was happy in general with the pan chan. The kimchi was complex and deeply flavorful, not too sharp or sour:
The shiitake mushrooms were simple and focused:
We all liked the little shrimp in a sweet chili sauce. Pleasant textures too:
The bean sprouts were unusual with horseradish or wasabi seasoning and went well with all of the beef:
To me the cucumber slices were well prepared with more crunch and bright flavors than standard cucumber pan chan:
For my tastes, the only shortcoming to the pan chan was the lack of anything dried – dried radish and dried tofu being particular favorites.
We also got this vegetable and soybean paste soup that we ate very little of:
And a nice fluffy custardy egg dish with mild seafood flavor:
But Prime is all about the meats, and what an array we got with Combo C:
It's interesting comparing Cathy's picture of the meats with mine because we sat more or less across from each other and our photos have a different perspective. This picture, for example, emphasizes the size and thickness of the ribeye steak.
All this top-quality meat was tasty. Prime even uses ribeye steak for their bul gogi. The ribeye steak itself and the brisket were totally enjoyable. But my favorites were the two furthest away in the picture. The boneless ribs were full of tendon and cartilage and had deep flavor and a pleasant chewy mouthfeel. The marinated galbi was supremely rich and butter tender. Overall it was a first-rate Korean beef barbecue.
When I first saw that plate of beef hit the table, I thought there was no way we would finish it. However:
One final note – our server was friendly and helpful throughout. She explained the dipping sauces, put the meats on the grill, took them off, cut them up, and otherwise facilitated, which was great because we three could concentrate on our conversations and our eating. I sure had a great time.
Was in San Diego recently so I'm writing about some SD meals today. Kirk or Cathy will write about some meals tomorrow. That's how we roll.
Regular readers of mmm-yoso have already heard about these places, so I will link to other posts and try to keep my comments simple and short.
Buga. Coming into town I got stuck in a traffic jam on I8 near Alpine caused by a burning truck, so when I finally got to town I wanted to go to someplace easy to find with a large parking lot that could dish up something cool and refreshing. I was tired and ravenous when I pulled into Buga. So tired and ravenous that I forgot my camera. The pan chan were fine, the bulgogi meh, and the cold noodle soup really good.
Village Kitchen. The recent opening of a few regional Chinese restaurants in San Diego seems like a good trend. Not sure which one to try, I ended up at Village Kitchen. As a gringo (is there a Chinese equivalent?), I appreciated the order sheet along with the menu that pictured every dish. Made things simpler and reduced chances of mistakes:
Of course I had to have the mashed eggplant, green chili, and century egg:
That mortar and pestle are huge. This was a lot of food. Describing the flavor is almost impossible. But I’ll ty anyway – intense, earthy umami. Love at first bite. Here's a more detailed picture:
The century eggs are the black things. The mashed eggplant just seems to suck up flavors from the mild green chilies and those stinky eggs. Amazing weird good.
I also tried the Chinese pickle, chopped bamboo shoot, and ground pork:
I like all of those ingredients, and the dish had an interesting flavor profile as well. However, it lacked the power of the eggplant mash. And the finely chopped ingredients along with the ground pork were a challenge for my American chopstick skills. I took most of it to go.
Kokoro has become a regular go-to spot for me in San Diego:
The parking lot has plenty of spaces, and the restaurant is not crowded. I really enjoy the low key ambience, the friendly service, and the easy jazz playing in the background. I ordered the very basic sashimi lunch:
The tuna was surprisingly good, and the other three were all decent. As ordinary as this lunch was, Yuma has no place I can count on getting sashimi that I will like, so I was happy. The lunch came with okay miso soup, rice, and these excellent pickles:
Boiling Passion had a totally different ambience. Hip-hop videos were playing on the flat screen TV in the clean well lighted place:
Not only was I the only non-Asian in the restaurant, I was a good 30 years older than anyone else. However, the energetic and friendly server went out of her way to assist me. For example she explained the difference between the three dipping sauces provided - bean paste garlic soy and hot chili oil - and also suggested the proportions to mix together in the small leaf shaped saucer:
Since I had ordered the seafood hotplate with noodles instead of rice, dry cellophane noodles arrived first, and I was told to let them cook for a couple minutes in the hot pot:
Then the hot pot showed up and soon was bubbling and steaming:
Overall I loved it. The broth was rich and flavorful and improved as the items cooked. I was a little surprised by the beef in a seafood hot pot, but the meat added flavor and tasted good. I liked the fish balls and shrimp balls, and I've quit complaining about krab in a reasonably priced meal. The two or three little clams were okay as were the two pieces of squid. Only the shrimp, which had a mushy texture, disappointed. I would certainly return and would love to try some different hot pots.
So far, my trip was going great. The weather was gorgeous (78° at the beach), and I was eating well. I was also looking forward to Wednesday when I would have a simple lunch at Sakura and then dinner with Kirk and Cathy at Prime – but that will have to wait for Part 2.
Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will be posting, but today Ed (from Yuma) is talking about a restaurant he found (in Yuma).
Someone told me that there was a Birrieria on 8th Street. Thinking that it would be easy to find, I didn't ask for – or perhaps remember – any more details. But the place seemed to be hiding. It was a couple months later when I finally spotted it, and then it was closed. But I read a sign on the window that said it was open Friday through Sunday, so the next Friday I showed up:
As you can see, Del Pueblo has no bright signage and it presents an inconspicuous storefront wedged between a smoke shop and a $.99 store across from Food City. Inside, however, there are two large tables and at least eight smaller tables arranged on the sides of the dining area:
The room is clean and brightly painted, and a couple nice decorations make up for the folding chairs:
Love these boots:
The small menus are on the sides of the napkin dispensers:
First visit, I ordered a torta:
It was generously sized, the roll had been nicely grilled, and I wanted to eat it immediately. However, I knew I had to open it up and show you, dear reader, what the insides looked like:
All the basics: avocado slices, crunchy lettuce, tomato chunks, and of course meat. I had been offered the four standard carne options – res, chivo, lengua, or cabeza – and had chosen the beef cheeks:
The meat was tender, rich, and flavorful. I also was impressed the meat had been properly drained before it was loaded onto the sandwich, so the bolillo roll did not become soggy and fall apart, and the sandwich went into my stomach instead of onto my shirt.
So of course Tina and I had to visit Del Pueblo that weekend. And on weekends they serve menudo and birria de chivo. She ordered one and I the other.
First we got our beverages (Mexican Coke), a bottle of the fiery house salsa, and the wheel of condiments:
While we were waiting, I went back and watched the cook prepare corn tortillas:
Taking balls of masa dough from the bowl, she flattened them in the tortilla press, then grilled them on the little flat tops.
The tortillas arrived tasting fresh and warm:
The menudo was rich and mild flavored, filled with tripe and hominy:
Maybe not the best in town, but pretty darned good.
The birria de chivo was outstanding, deeply flavored by the extra savory broth: And packed with tender tasty goat flesh.
A couple of weeks later, I joined Deb W and Lauryn at Del Pueblo for a Friday lunch.
Remembering those homemade tortillas, I ordered tacos, which came with the same wheel of condiments:
The taco de res was filled with a lot of well-drained shredded stew beef:
The cabeza was as rich and meaty as on the torta:
And the lengua had perfect texture and mild flavor:
The girls ordered beef burritos. Our server returned a minute later and explained that they were out of the large burrito sized flour tortillas and asked if it would be okay if the burritos were made with more than one tortilla. "No problem," they said, so the nicely grilled burritos were a little unusual looking:
Having eaten with me and my camera before, Lauryn cut open her burrito so that I could get a picture of its insides. And then she photo bombed the pic:
If you ignore the hungry mouth, you can see the steaming burrito filled with res, frijoles, arroz, and queso. Both Lauren and Deb approved.
I'm glad I finally found Del Pueblo. The menu may be limited, but they are good at what they do. And the prices are cheap. The friendly young server (I think it’s a family operation) tells me that the restaurant will open weekdays once the weather cools down and business heats up.
Del Pueblo Birrieria, 1225 W. 8th St, Yuma 85364, (928) 750-8678.