Category: Restaurant Reviews

5 Super Phoenix Valley Restaurants

There is a lot to love in the Phoenix Valley for the Serious Foodie: an active nightlife, a large selection of eclectic restaurants, and a growing population of young professionals who want fun & diversity & quality.  Add Super Bowl Sunday, and you have a weekend party atmosphere that has lasted for more than two weeks. If you live in the area, or just visiting, we offer you our 5 favorite restaurants – unique, fun, and not to be missed. [/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” image=”1504″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” style=”vc_box_border”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text] Little Miss Barbeque Address: 4301 East University Drive, Phoenix, AZ 85034 Phone: (602) 437-1177 Hours: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm Tues-Sat The BBQ scene in Phoenix received a hefty boost from this fairly new restaurant – and it’s quickly become insanely popular. The smokers run all day to slow-cook the meat to perfection. Like many traditional southern BBQ joints, once they run out of food, that’s it! Be sure to stop here as soon as it opens, and even then you can wait as long as 2 hours at peak times – but it is surely worth the wait. Be sure to try the brisket, pulled pork, and beef ribs, […]

Shishito Pepper: A Quick Primer on These Summertime Wonders

Shishito peppers have been a staple on many restaurant menus for several years, especially up-scale Japanese and Asian fusion restaurants (most notably Nobu).   There are appearing more and more at main stream restaurants – so we want to provide some background, then a few easy recipes to turn these summertime beauties into simple at-home delights. The Wikipedia article on Shishito Peppers calls them “…a sweet, Japanese variety of the species Capsicum annuum,” and perfectly describes them as “…small and finger-ling sized, slender, and thin-walled.”  They also note that one in ten are spicy.  Our experience was more like every other pepper was hot – not mouth numbing, but close to it.  But even when the peppers were hot, they were also sweet, and tasted like the essence of green (think of the smell of fresh cut grass). The plants are relatively easy to grow, but thrive in warmer climates.  The plants get bushy, and each plant is very prolific, providing dozens of peppers in the late spring/early summer time frame. Like all medium to hot peppers, the Shishito peppers are very rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Here’s our first recipe, which is similar to the preparation you will […]

An Excellent Evening with Chef Cristian Feher, And a Recipe for Herb Crusted Lamb Chops

We received a wonderful gift from our future son-in-law (he’s getting lots of brownie points) – a gift certificate to have Chef Cristian Feher cook for us (The Tampa Bay Chef: Chef Feher is well-trained, and has traveled the world to learn his craft. As a life-style choice, he decided to become a personal chef, and has done very well for himself in this business model. He came to our home with a stack of food, his personal kitchen tool kit, and an eagerness to get started right away.  Our dinner was learning experience besides a culinary experience, as we gleaned some wonderful (and simple) techniques along the way.  Ever dish was garnished to perfection:  simple and elegant.  We even learned how to use a Joyce Chen Spiral Slicer (a long forgotten kitchen tool stuck in the bottom of one of our drawers). The menu included a gigantic stuffed portabella mushroom, herb crusted lamb chops, and a classic paella. We were surprised by the quantity, and we enjoyed left-overs for a week! We would strongly recommend Chef Feher for a special evening, cooking lessons, or an event.  We are sharing one of the recipes from the evening: herb crusted […]

Sauces for Sushi – Inspiration from Vizen

For the purists, great sushi needs very little sauce or flavor – the fish and the rice need to be the central, focal point of each morsel.  Soy sauce, a bit of wasabi, and some pickled ginger afterwards is the limit for many sushi foodies. The mold was broken by a number of creative, renegade Japanese chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa and Masaharu Morimoto who fused international ingredients with traditional Japanese cuisine.  The concept of Vizen, a wonderful little Japanese restaurant in Sarasota, FL, aims at taking the Asian Fusion movement one step further with there creative combinations. There were some old standards on the sushi menu, including toro (fatty tuna), tako (octopus), and eel flavored with Nitsume. While the sushi was high quality, with beautifully prepared rice, the shinning stars of the restaurant were the fusion dishes.  We had a fresh cobia tataki, and a tuna tataki, that were both visually beautiful and laced with outstanding matching sauces.  Dollops of basil pesto and a balsamic vinegar reduction, both more apt to be part of an Italian dish than a Japanese plate, worked very well with the lightly seared rich tuna.  The crunch from the fried potato strings was a nice […]

Duck Hash Recipe Inspired by 39 Rue de Jean

During our January 2014 foodie road trip, we made a stop to Charleston, SC.  We had dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurants (check out the other reviews), and wondered around the town during the day.  We stumbled on 39 Rue de Jean just as we needed to get brunch/lunch, and decided to give it a try.  The audience seemed to like it – and it was very active on a generally slow day in Charleston. The style of the restaurant can be best described as New Orleans funk – lots of wood, a bit of wall clutter, up beat music.  We were in time for brunch – the menu had a lot of standard, slightly up-scaled fare (such as eggs benedict done in about 24 styles), but one item caught our attention:  duck confit hash.  We’re big fans of good hash, and this one made it to our all-time best list.  The hash mix was a perfect combination of duck confit, potatoes, onions, sweet red pepper, and a heavenly gravy that was rich and incredibly flavorful. One of our favorite exercises is to back-engineer restaurant dishes, and to see if we can come close to matching the flavors.  We […]

Husk in Charleston – Turning a Sow's Ear Into a Silk Purse

The DinnerDoctor and I had heard a lot about Chef Sean Brock, and heard from so many sources that his food was tops in a town that is now high on the foodies’ radar screen.  In fact, it’s hard to find a (credible foodies) bad review on Husk.  We were certainly astonished by the laid-back, but attentive service, and the rustic atmosphere that somehow still expressed quality.  When you walk into the reception area, you are immediately overwhelmed by the list of almost every purveyor of a major ingredient at Husk scrolled on a huge blackboard.  This is an amazing attention to detail for a farm to table restaurant. The wine list is well-balanced between New World and Old World – but, on this rarest occasions, we skipped wine, and focused on the bourbon list – and what a list!  We did not see Pappy Van Winkle on the list, but many other fine, rare bourbons were there.  We tried a Jefferson Presidential 21, and their special barrel-aged Manhattan – both outstanding. Chef Sean’s signature dish seems to be the “Buffalo” Glazed Pig Ear Lettuce Wraps, which was on the menu the night we visited.  Pig ear might sound weird […]

Hill Country Barbeque – Down Home Cooking in Downtown NYC

During our 10 day long foodie road trip during the week of Jan 6,  we intended to stop at a number of BBQ dives along the way from NYC to Florida.  We’re not barbeque experts, but we certainly now live in an area of the country were barbeque is an art form.  We’re also not usually persuaded to eat barbeque in any major northern city, although we have tried (and liked) barbeque from Dinosaur BBQ (in Rochester, Syracuse, and NYC), Daisy May’s, and Blue Smoke.  Our hotel was close to Hill Country Barbeque, which many NYC foodies list on their top 10.  We decided to try it out. We’ve seen a number of places with a similar style throughout the south: a cafeteria with a meat and a sides station.  You get a tray with your crafted menu items, and the servers come to give you drinks and give you napkins.  But this is New York. We have a few basic tests for all the BBQ joints we have visited:  brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork.  Well, no pulled pork at this place – very surprising.  They made up for this omission with one of the best briskets we’ve every […]

Barbounia – A Mediterranean Affair

Barbounia was a bit of a lucky circumstance – we were going to the Gramercy Tavern for lunch on the coldest day in NYC history, only to find it closed that day.  Around the corner was a very inviting looking spot, full of people happy to be inside. We made a quick decision to try Barbounia – and what a happy accident! From the moment the DinnerDoctor and I walked in, we knew we were onto something special – a such a frigid day, the place was buzzing with activity, but at the same time the cozy decor was very inviting. The wait staff was very friendly, very accommodating – and provided a high level of service that is unusual for a casual, bistro style restaurant.  The food is labelled as Mediterranean, leaning heavily towards Greek in flavor and concept. From our NYC experience, Barbounia is near the top for the Greek/Mediterranean restaurant scene, even those places driven by well-known chefs. The interior is both rustic and modern at the same time, providing a fun atmosphere.  If we had the time, we would have loved to come back for tapas and drinks.  The drink list was very innovative, appealing, and […]

A January Foodie Road Trip

There is no better time to take a foodie road trip than the dead of winter – most people are recovering from holiday over-eating so there is no problem getting into most any restaurant. And with the temperatures in the Northeast in single digits, most people in their right mind were not out and about.  But we’re not in our right minds. Besides all of these reasons, we were looking for a good way to break all of our New Year’s resolution in one fell swoop. We started in NYC, when the temperatures hit record lows – it actually was painful to walk the streets.  Over the course of 10 days, we made our way through six cities, ending in our sunny home environs of Bradenton, FL.  We went to a number of fine dining restaurants, and some fun dives including a good sampling of  barbeque. Here are the restaurants we visited (links provided to the reviews on each restaurant): NYC: Barbournia, Hill Country Barbeque Market Philadelphia: Serpico Stafford, VA: Zibibbo Smithfield, NC: White Swan Barbeque Charleston, SC: Peninsula Grill, Husk, Rue de Jean Ellenton, FL:  Hickory Hollow Barbeque Sarasota, FL: Louie’s Modern  

Enzo's – Just Like Mia Madre

I was invited to lunch with a fellow foodie, Chuck, at one of his favorite neighborhood gems.  He kept his choice under wraps, telling me just shortly before our meeting – he was trying to surprise me, bless his heart. Little did he know that Enzo’s was one of my favorite haunts when we lived in Lawrenceville, NJ from 1984 – 1994.  We’re really very picky about our Italian restaurants, since they have to measure up to Mama Mickalene’s cooking – a very high hurdle.  So, to my great delight, I got reintroduced to Enzo’s.  The restaurant is still family-run, with the majority of recipes coming from their own traditions.  Anna Scozzari, and her mother Rita, were gracious hosts.  It reminded me of being in Italy, ushered into a restaurant where everyone is family, whether or not you’re related. Even though it was lunch time, Anna brought out quite a banquet for us (Chuck simply said: cook what you think we’d like).  There were quite a few highlights, especially the Eggplant Rollatini (very light, very flavorful), a wonderfully fresh beet salad, and al dente pasta with their home red sauce.  Each dish had balanced flavors (sweet, salty, spicy) which makes […]