Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mid-Autumn Festival Barbeque

To celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival we barbecued today. Here's what we ate:
  • Kal-bi (short ribs)
  • Carne asada w/ homemade pico de gallo
  • Fish Cake
  • Mi fun (rice noodles)
  • Meatball soup
  • Shitake mushroom
  • Sweet potato
  • Enoki mushroom
  • Bacon-wrapped asparagus
  • Homemade Jasmine Green Tea ice cream
  • Homemade chocolate chip cookies
  • Grapes
  • Moon cakes
various items on the grill
Everything was sooooo good. I ate way too much so I need to go lay down now!

"Matrix" Ping-Pong and Street Fighter

Very creative performance from an ASUS company party...
Make sure you see the whole thing - the Street Fighter imitation is spot-on!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Free Omelette Day - Do good while eating?

FYI - this Thursday is Free Omelette Day!

From 7am until 2:30pm, First Watch locations around the Valley will be serving free omelettes. All donations will benefit St. Vincent de Paul.

Eating and doing something good...I'll be there!

Read more about it here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Red Robin

How ironic. Right after I post about my dislike of chain restaurants, I end up going to one. It was however, one of those in the five percent of good chains, Red Robin. Patty and I go out for burgers about once a month, and it's usually either at In-N-Out or Red Robin. Delux is another one of our favorite burger places, but it's farther away so we don't go there as often. We had a certificate for a free burger (for Patty's birthday), and decided to use it for lunch this past Sunday.

We ordered a Banzai Burger, an Apple Harvest Chicken Salad, and a Freckled Lemonade.

Not much to say about the burger and drink. They were great, as usual.

Red Robin - Banzai Burger and Freckled Lemonade
The salad was a new menu item. It sounded good in the menu description:

"Fresh field greens tossed with juicy grilled chicken, diced apples, candied walnuts and Goat cheese. Topped with sliced apples and a dijon vinaigrette. It's sophisticatedly fun. Better than the farmers market."

I thought it was just ok. There was quite a bit of iceberg lettuce mixed in with the field greens and the apple didn't seem too fresh. I think the chicken was a pre-made product (i.e. Tyson Grilled Chicken Strips) but Patty thought it was pretty good. We'll pass on this next time...

Red Robin - Apple Harvest Chicken Salad
Since we were redeeming a birthday certificate, our server brought out a complimentary dessert sundae. It was a nice treat (on top of the free burger).

Red Robin - complimentary birthday sundae

Saturday, September 15, 2007

5395 West Soul Food Place Restaurant (times two)

For lunch on Tuesday, I tried a place called 5395 West Soul Food Place Restaurant. I ordered the Catfish Po' Boy and a Sweet Tea (drinks are included w/ lunch). The Po 'Boy and tea were both excellent. The catfish had a nice and crunchy breading. The place is run by two sisters - both checked on me throughout my meal to make sure everything was ok. Here's a pic of my lunch:
5395 West Soul Food Place - Catfish Po' Boy w/ Sweet Tea
I loved the food so much that I took Patty there for dinner on Friday so she could try it as well. We shared a Two-item combo meal, choosing Catfish and Soulghetti as our entrees, and Candied Yams and Macaroni & Cheese as our sides. Patty also had a Sweet Tea. Before our meal came out, we were given two of their "Fried Biscuits". Everything was fantastic. We were both stuffed but wanted to try one of their home-made desserts, so we got an order of Peach Cobbler to go. Once we got home, we had the cobbler with a scoop of Haagen-Dazs Vanilla ice good.

Here are some pics:
5395 West Soul Food Place - Fried Biscuits5395 West Soul Food Place - Catfish w/ Mac and Cheese and Candied Yams5395 West Soul Food Place - Soulghetti5395 West Soul Food Place - Peach Cobbler
I like this place. The food is fantastic, the service is good, and it's not a chain! Our area is loaded w/ chain restaurants (of which 95% are, to be blunt, crap), so it's very nice to have this option nearby. I always wonder why people even go places like TGI Friday's and Applebee's, where the food is basically heat and serve, when they can get fresh, made-from-scratch cooking?!? Oh well - these must be the people that vote for Red Lobster as "Best Seafood Restaurant" and Olive Garden as "Best Italian Restaurant". OK - guess I'm going off on a tangent here...anyways...give those smaller, family-owned businesses a try!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Noodles Ranch

Uh oh - four days behind! Time to catch up!!!

On Monday, my Cousin Poly was in town. I had originally planned to take him to Zinc Bistro for dinner, but he had a craving for some Vietnamese food, so I took him to Noodles Ranch instead. It has been a few years since I've been there and I remembered that it was pretty decent. I would have taken him to Pho Avina or Da Vang, but Noodles Ranch was much closer.

We ordered a Green Papaya Salad and Banh Xeo to share and a Pho Tai for each of us.

The Green Papaya Salad came first. The taste of the salad was somewhat off, or flat. I think it was because the papaya was too ripe, making it not as crispy as it should have been.
Noodles Ranch - Green Papaya Salad
Next up was the Banh Xeo. It looked very different from what I'm used to. The taste was ok but the lettuce leaves that came with the dish were way too small to wrap the pancake.
Noodles Ranch - Banh Xeo
The Pho Tai was pretty good. I would have like the broth itself to have been much hotter, but the flavor was good. Sorry for the dark picture...
Noodles Ranch - Pho Tai
I would say that overall, the food was mediocre. If I were in the neighborhood, then I might come again, but for now, I'll stick with Pho Avina, Little Saigon, and Davang.

For dessert, I took my cousin to Arlecchino Gelateria to try Phoenix's "best" gelato. I had a scoop of nocchiola (hazelnut) and peach and Poly had scoops of coconut, Cortina (almond w/ lingonberry), and chocolate. Everything was fantastic, as usual. For our "second" round, we both tried a scoop of Valentino (pomegranate w/ rose and lavender), a flavor that I've never seen before at the shop. This one tasted quite strange to me. Poly mentioned that it tasted like "marinara sauce". Oh well, it definitely wasn't my favorite flavor of gelato. Maybe it's an acquired taste! =)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Want to buy a cheap house in Stockton?

Excerpt of a story from Yahoo! News:

"STOCKTON, United States (AFP) - A town in central California has become ground zero in the wave of foreclosures plaguing the US housing market in the wake of the sub-prime lending crisis.

With a population of nearly 300,000, Stockton has acquired the unfortunate distinction of having the highest foreclosure rate of any US city, with one in 27 households left counting the cost of the credit crunch, according to Realtytrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure sales."

From the same article:
"We've got 350 homes for sale in this neighborhood right now and at this rate, that is five years of inventory," said Taylor.

Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Giant pancakes (@ The Original Pancake House)

Going back three days...

Last Sunday, we met up with Joyce and Jay for brunch at The Original Pancake House.

We had decided that we would each order different items so we could each try all try the different dishes.

I ordered a Junior Apple Pancake. Patty had a Ron's Special... (can't remember the full name but it was an egg scramble w/ a bunch of stuff). Joyce had a Dutch Baby (aka German Pancake)
and Jay ordered a Corned Beef Hash w/ a side of hash browns.

When my Apple Pancake arrived, our server apologized because it had apparently stuck to the pan a bit. My apple pancake was kind of ugly but it tasted great. It was like eating dessert for breakfast. Bonus - the server didn't charge us for it because of the look of it. Here's a pic:
T.O.P.H. - Apple Pancake
For reference, this is what it's supposed to look like:
T.O.P.H. - Apple Pancake(from their corporate website)

Joyce's Dutch Baby was my favorite dish. It was sooooo good.
T.O.P.H. - Dutch Baby
I can't really remember the other two dishes (as I was too focused on the pancakes) other than that they were both pretty good. Here are pics of the two dishes:
T.O.P.H. - Ron's Special w/ Potato PancakesT.O.P.H. - Corned Beef Hash
Here's a pic of my plate with various items:
T.O.P.S. - my plate full of food
The pancakes are the definitely the stars here, but everything is well-made.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ouch! It's only going to get worse from here...

Here's a graphic from this week's Business Week (September 17, 2007 issue):

If you think the housing/mortgage mess looks bad now, it's going to be much uglier in the coming months!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Comfort food

After eating way too much the previous day, we stayed at home the entire day on Saturday.

For lunch, we made "dan bing", one of my favorite foods. Basically, it's like a Chinese burrito. Ever since our trip to Singapore (where we first discovered roti prata), we've been using roti prata, instead of chinese scallion cakes or "dan bing pi". Roti prata has a really nice pastry-like flavor that works well for dan bing. Usually, we make dan bing with roti prata, egg, and rou song (dried shredded pork), but to kick things up a bit, we added basil, green onion, and pickled daikon. Here are two pictures (the first shows the innards, the second is the finished dan bing):

dan bing - innardsdan bing
For dinner, Patty made delicious noodle soup made with the following ingredients:
  • Korean noodles
  • scallops
  • fish balls
  • cabbage
  • green onion
  • egg
  • Taiwanese barbeque sauce
  • sesame oil
Here's a pic:Patty's noodle soup
So tasty!

Next up - Giant pancakes!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Birthday dinner at Kai

For my birthday dinner yesterday, we went to Kai, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. The resort is located on the Gila River Indian Community in Chandler, and Kai's cuisine is heavily influenced by Native American food and culture. The restaurant has won many awards in the short time it has been open, including a 2007 AAA Five Diamond Award (one of only four in Arizona). All of the reviews I've read have been very, very positive (I have yet to read a negative comment about the place) and I was really excited to try it.

At the entrance to the restaurant, two hosts immediately greeted us by name and led us to our table. As we walked to our table, all of the employees we passed greeted us (and bowed their heads). We were seated at a window-side table and attendants placed napkins on our laps. The shades were drawn as the setting sun was directly facing the window. The dining room was very peaceful and serene, with very soft Native American music in the background.

Our main server arrived and gave us very informative background of the restaurant. He presented us with menus (w/ hand drawn Native American art on the cover). Here a picture of one of the menus:
Kai - menu w/ hand drawn cover art
Service throughout the meal was provided by two servers. We were offered a choice of sparkling or non-sparkling water. We opted for non-sparkling, which is Voss water served w/ a choice of key lime, orange, or lemon slices.

For our meal we choose the following items (very descriptive menu names, by the way):
  • Three Sisters Composition ("Venison Carpaccio, Sweet Corn Panna Cotta, Pickled Heirloom Squash, Tumbleweed of Micro Greens & Four Corners Golden Beans")
  • Slow Braised Lobster Tail ("Butter Basted Lobster Tail, Lobster Coral, Avocado Mousse, Tear Drop Tomato Salsa on Third Generation Fry Bread")
  • Grilled Tenderloin of Buffalo from the Cheyenne River Tribe ("Smoked Corn Puree, Barbeque Scarlet Runner Beans, Saguaro Blossom Syrup, Cholla Buds & Cool Weather Mushrooms")
  • Oven Roasted Colorado Rack of Lamb ("Pecan-crusted Lamb Rack with Native Seed Search Mole, Cornbread Pudding with Exotic Mushrooms & Asparagus")
Patty left for the restroom and one of the servers collected her napkin and replaced it with a fresh one. When she came back, an attendant again seated her and placed the napkin in her lap.

Our first dish was an amuse-guele. I can't remember the exact description but it was like the best pea soup ever.
Kai - amuse-guele
We were each given a plate with three types of bread. Two "traditional" type breads and one flat bread. All of the breads were great but we both loved the flat bread.
Kai - bread plate w/ olive oil
Next up were our appetizers.

The Three Sisters Composition was our least favorite item of the evening. I really liked the panna cotta but the dish didn't "wow" me overall.
Kai - Three Sisters Composition
By mistake, we were sent an order of the "Dried Mango & Sandalwood Dusted Lion's Paw Baja Scallops". We notified our server that we never ordered this (we had ordered the lobster tail). He apologized profusely and said that he had pressed the wrong key and that we could enjoy the scallops and he would re-order the lobster tail. The scallops were awesome. Two very large perfectly cooked scallops.
Kai - Scallops
The lobster appetizer was brought out shortly thereafter. It was very good, though I thought the fry bread may have masked the full flavor of the lobster.
Kai - Lobster Tail
Prior to the arrival of our entrees, we were each given an intermezzo of pomegranate sorbet. It was very light and refreshing.
Kai - Intermezzo of Pomegranate Sorbet
About this time, the sun had gone down and they had opened the shades. We had a fantastic view of the resort pool and surrounding mountains.
Kai - view of sunset
Our entrees arrived and we were immediately surprised at how large they were. Maybe too large? They could have been half the size and we would have been very happy (even paying the same price). From the pictures, you really can't tell how big the portions were.

The Buffalo Tenderloin was great. Very tender and flavorful. It wasn't the best steak I've ever had, but it was up there.
Kai - Buffalo Tenderloin
The Rack of Lamb was my favorite item of the night. It was incredibly tender. The best ever. Zinc Bistro used to have a great rack of lamb but they no longer have it on their menu. In any case, Kai's lamb was even better than Zinc Bistro's.
Kai - Rack of Lamb
After our plates were cleared, we were presented with warm towels infused with lavender, to freshen up. A very nice touch!

For my birthday, we were given a complimentary dessert. It was a really good (and very rich) chocolate mousse. Here's a very dark picture:
Kai - complimentary dessert
We were also given four truffles. Two mocha and two hazelnut. The mocha truffles were a bit too sweet. The hazelnut truffles were very good. Sorry - no picture as it was too dark.

I ordered a Green Passion Fruit Tea. The tea set was really nice and the tea was quite good. It was Japanese sencha with hints of ginseng, marigold flowers, and passion fruit. Again, no picture as it was too dark.

BTW, throughout the evening we could hear multiple "oohs and "aahs" coming from our neighboring tables. I also overheard both tables thank the servers for an "incredible experience".

As we left the restaurant, we were again thanked by our server and various employees (our server and the host thanked us by name). I don't think I've ever heard my name mentioned so many times!

After handing the valet attendant our claim ticket, he handed us two chilled bottles of Voss water and left to retrieve our car. In other reviews, I've heard that the water, along w/ chocolates, and a handwritten thank-you note from your server, are placed on the dash of your car. We didn't get a thank-you note and any chocolates. Perhaps they don't give the chocolates during the summer months? In any case, it wasn't a big deal but I was kind of curious about that. If I hadn't read about it before (the water, note, and chocolates), I would have still been very impressed by the water alone.

I highly, highly recommend Kai. The outstanding food and service make for an incredible dining experience. We were blown away by the level of service (it was the best ever, by far) and the food was some of the best we've had. Kudos to the staff at Kai for a job (very) well done!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Why air travel in the US is so frustrating

Business Week, September 10, 2007 issue coverThere's an article in this week's Business Week titled, "Fear & Loathing at the Airport". I found it very interesting that there was no mention of our wonderful TSA. How is this possible?!?

Every time I fly, I wonder why flying in the US is such a hassle. Unnecessarily long lines, having to take off my shoes, being able to carry on liquids only if they are in 3 oz. containers stored in a 1 qt. clear plastic zip-top bag??? ARGHHHHHH!!!!

Having flown all over the world, the US is by far the worst. OK, that's my "venting" for the week...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cool Georgia Tsao mention

Georgia Tsao logo
A Georgia Tsao customer has posted about the company on her blog. I can't read it (as it's in Chinese...), but the graphics are cute!

(Georgia Tsao is the jewelry company that Patty started with her sisters.)

Cereal addiction

I have an addiction. I admit it. I'm addicted to cereal!

Here's a picture of our cereal cupboard:
cereal stockpile

Current stock includes:
- Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted (must have)
- Honey Nut Cheerios (must have)
- Honey Bunches of Oats with Cinnamon Clusters
- Post Raisin Bran
- Cascadian Farm Oats & Honey Granola
- Cinnamon Life

I eat a bowl of cereal almost every morning for breakfast. Sometimes, I also have a small bowl of cereal before going to bed.

When I was younger, I used to love Cinnamon Toast Crunch and (Captain Crunch) Peanut Butter Crunch, but now I pretty much stick to the healthier choices. My two "must have" cereals are Honey Bunches of Oats and Honey Nut Cheerios. My favorite is a combination of the two.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

dish and Houston's

For brunch on Sunday, we headed to a place that had opened recently, called "dish". It's a market/bistro. The full service bistro is only open during dinner hours. The market is open throughout the day. In the market, you can get prepared and made-to-order foods at various food stations.

Here are a few pics of the market:
dish - market areadish - market areadish - market area

We tried a naan bbq wrap ($8) and a 1/2 lemon herb rotisserie chicken ($5.50). For drinks, we had a GUS (Grown Up Soda) Dry Meyer Lemon soda and an Ito En Teas' Tea Rose Green Tea. The wrap was pretty good, though I thought it was a bit expensive for what you got. From what I remember, it was bbq pork, cheese, cabbage, and some sort of cream sauce, wrapped in naan. The rotisserie chicken was also good. The skin was really tasty (crispy and flavorful), though the white meat portions were a bit too dry. I thought it was a good value for $5.50. I really liked the GUS soda. The lemon flavor was just right and the drink itself wasn't overly sweet. The tea was a typical Japanese style drink - unsweetened green tea w/ hints of rose.

Here are a few pics of the food and one of the bistro area:
dish - naan bbq wrapdish - 1/2 rotisserie chickendish - bistro area

For dessert we tried gelato 3 flavors of gelato - Strawberry, Chocolate Hazelnut, and Lemoncello. We actually didn't order the Lemoncello, but the server scooped it by mistake so she gave us the dish for free. The Strawberry wasn't so good. It had a strange texture (almost too smooth) and flavor. We think it was actually Kiwi-Strawberry. The other two flavors were decent. The gelato at Arlecchino Gelateria is much better.

dish - gelatodish - gelato

It's a neat place but I'm not sure if it will survive. The place is huge and the rent must be way up there. It also seemed to be way overstaffed - I'm guessing there are around 50+ employees working at any one time. I wouldn't go out of my way just for the food. We'll see...

For dinner, we met up with Denise and her brother, Cedric, at Houston's (Biltmore location). I ordered a bbq burger and Patty (and Denise) had a sea bass special. No pics - it was too dark inside.

The burger was just ok. Can't think of much more to say about it. The sea bass didn't taste like anything like Chilean Sea Bass. We flagged down one of the servers and told him about the fish and he replied that it was a "Blue Nose Sea Bass" and that it should have a very similar taste and texture to Chilean Sea Bass. It didn't - it tasted more like swordfish or mahi-mahi. Both Denise and Patty replaced the dish with a Crab Cake special (that Cedric had ordered). The crab cakes were pretty good - full of large chunks of crab meat. We were kind of shocked though when we got the bill - they were $32! Houston's is supposed to be well-known for its customer service, and on past visits the food has been pretty good (for a chain). Overall, we left disappointed.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Trying to escape the heat

Yesterday (Saturday), we decided to take a day trip up to Prescott.

Purposes of the trip:
  1. Try to escape the heat in Phoenix (forecast of 110 degrees for the day)
  2. Go somewhere we've never been to before
  3. Check out the area - Prescott's real estate market has been booming the past few years (wanted to see why)
  4. Do something other than seeing a movie or going to the mall
We arrived in Prescott at around noon.

Prescott - welcome sign
Prescott - Whiskey Row

The temperature was around 95 degrees. It was still pretty warm but tolerable enough to be walking around outside. For lunch we went to the Prescott Brewing Company, the "Most Awarded Brewery in Arizona". Patty ordered the "Bordello Bowtie" and I had a half order of the Fish & Chips. We also ordered two beers - a "Prescott Pale Ale" and a "Bumbleberry Ale". The pale ale was pretty good. The Bumbleberry Ale tasted a bit strange. I regretted not trying the "Lodgepole Light" - the brewery's winningest beer (including a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival). Both dishes were pretty good. Sorry no pictures - they turned out a bit too dark. The pasta was pretty tasty, although it was a bit too salty. The fish was good - crispy beer-battered fish...yum. The chips (fried potato wedges) were a bit over salted. I think the over salting might be a strategy to get people to drink more!

After lunch we walked around the downtown/"Whiskey Row" area. There was an art festival - "Fair on the Square", which surrounded the Yavapai County Court House.

Prescott - Fair on the SquarePrescott - Yavapai County Court House

It was nice being able to walk outside in the sunshine (something you can't do for an extended amount of time in Phoenix...unless you enjoy being tortured). While we were enjoying a caramel apple, Patty spotted this large butterfly:
Prescott - butterfly

I thought this plaque was funny:

Around 3pm, it started raining so we ducked into the Hassayampa Inn to wait for the rain to subside. After twenty minutes or so, the rain died down a bit and we decided to head back to Phoenix.

For dinner (back in Phoenix), we went to Pho Avina. Patty and I have been there many times before. It's one of the better Vietnamese places in town. We had a Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef soup) and grilled beef w/ rice vermicelli, salad, and egg roll. Both were good (as usual).

Pho Avina - Grilled Beef w/ Rice VermicelliPho Avina - Bun Bo Hue