Sunday, April 27, 2008

Learning about the Dalai Lama

We recently watched two movies about the 14th Dalai Lama.

The first movie was called Kundun. This film was directed by Martin Scorsese and released back in 1997. It focuses on the early years of the Dalai Lama.

The second movie was a documentary called 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. The documentary is mainly about the filmmaker's (Rick Ray) interview w/ the Dalai Lama. It also gives an overview of the Dalai Lama's life (from being selected as a child to present day).

Both are great movies - highly recommended!

I guess this blog may now be banned in China. =)

Good Sunday Eats

We cooked a bunch of stuff today.

For breakfast we made frittatas using veggies from our garden (chili peppers, tomatoes, and basil):
frittata w/ tomatoes, chili peppers, and basilbeef noodle soup
For lunch we made beef noodle soup!
green bean soup
Our afternoon snack was green (mung) bean soup:

Dinner was broiled salmon w/ ginger teriyaki glaze and snow peas w/ shrimp (no pics).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Humble Pie

For dinner tonight we went to Humble Pie. I'd read quite a few very positive reviews about this place and was eager to try it.

Humble Pie is located in the Hilton Village in Scottsdale. It's a nice casual, comfortable place. Here's a shot of the dining room (w/ the pizza oven in the background):
Humble Pie - interiorHumble Pie - menu cover
We ordered Crispy Calamari tossed in herbs w/ basil chili dipping sauce ($9.95), Humble Pie w/ Schreiner's Sicilian Sausage, roasted fennel, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce ($12.95), and a Coke ($2.50).

The calamari was fantastic. I'd say it was the second best fried calamari dish I've ever had. The best was the Ginger + Coconut Encrusted Calamari at Parallel Seventeen (in Denver). I'll write about my recent Denver trip one of these days...

No commercial frozen prepared calamari here (the stuff that you will find at every chain restaurant). Humble Pie's calamari is close to perfection. Each piece was just the right size. You could really taste the herbs in the breading and the calamari was cooked just right. The basil chili sauce was really nice. Here's a pic:
Humble Pie - Crispy Calamari
As good as the calamari was, we were underwhelmed with the pizza. A few observations:
  • I couldn't really taste any of the toppings - it all kind of blended together.
  • Something seemed wrong w/ the ratio of dough to toppings - see the picture below.
  • The tomato sauce was quite sour.
Humble Pie - Shreiner's Sicilian Sausage, roasted fennel, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce
It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. It was...very ordinary for us. Nothing really "popped" out in terms of the taste.

I did hear the next table raving about their pizzas. Maybe we just had an "off" pizza?

Places mentioned:

Humble Pie
6149 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Dutch Baby!

We went over to J&J's (no...not Johnson & Johnson's) for brunch today. They made Dutch Babies (German Pancakes) and thick-cut maple glazed bacon!

Here is a dutch baby straight out of the oven (w/ the bacon in the background):
dutch baby and maple glazed baconSee the edge on that?!?

dutch baby and maple glazed bacon
Everything was soooo good. We all suffered from a "food coma" afterwards. =)

Thanks guys! We are happy to be your guinea pigs anytime.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lee Lee is open!

Woo Hoo!!!
Lee Lee (in Peoria) opened today!
Can you tell I'm excited?!?

For those of you who don't know what Lee Lee's an Asian supermarket. When I used to live in Chandler, I used to go there all the time.

We stopped by on the way home from work.

It seems like an instant hit! The place was packed! I guess there were a bunch of people, like us, waiting for it to open. I think a good portion of the Vietnamese population was at the store today. The majority of the customers were Vietnamese. The Chandler store seems to have a more diverse customer base.

We finally have a good Asian grocery store in the West Valley.
Lam's (67th Ave/Indian School) is kind of grimy and in a scary part of town. Asiana (43rd Ave/Union Hills) is decent but has mostly Korean items.

As it's on our way home, I think we'll be stopping at Lee Lee pretty often.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

American Idol

Yes...we are watching American Idol.

Can't believe that Carly Smithson was voted off this week. I thought her performance last night rocked. Should've been Jason Castro (terrible performance) or Brooke White (another mediocre performance).


On our way home tonight, we drove by the new Lee-Lee to see if it was open yet (it wasn't). I think I read somewhere that it will be open tomorrow (April 24). I remembered reading that there was a new Vietnamese restaurant just across the street so we decided to have that for dinner.

Pholicious is in a new strip mall on the northwest corner of 75th Avenue and Cactus Rd. The dining room is simple, nice, and clean. We ordered Spring Rolls ($3.95), Pho Tai ($6.75), and Shrimp, Grilled Pork, and Egg Roll on rice vermicelli ($6.95)

Sorry - no camera, so no pictures.

The spring rolls were very good. Both of us thought they were quite large compared to the springs rolls at other Vietnamese restaurants.

The pho tai was great. It was one of the better bowls of pho I've had.

The broth was hot, clear, full of flavor, and not oily. The beef was tender and the noodles weren't too soft. It was served with a plateful of fresh basil, bean sprouts, and a few lime wedges and jalapenos slices.

The shrimp and grilled pork w/ rice vermicelli was also good.

It's a great addition to the West Valley. We'll be back!

Places mentioned:

7582 W. Cactus Rd
Peoria, AZ 85381

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday treats

For breakfast yesterday we made crepes!

We added Fior di Nocciola (organic hazelnut and chocolate spread) and good!
spreading Fior di Nocciola on the crepefinished crepe
Later in the day we made a pear custard pie. We followed a recipe from the book Everyday Food: Great Food Fast (although we used less vanilla and eggs than the recipe called for). It turned out really good - very light and not too sweet. I think I could eat the whole thing at one sitting. Instead, we'll be eating one quarter per day. Here's a shot after Day 1 (yesterday):
pear custard pieAs of today, it's half gone...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

In Vegas!

Just arrived in Vegas for a friend's wedding.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Latest College Reading Lists: Menus With Pho and Lobster (from The New York Times)

found this article via
Latest College Reading Lists: Menus With Pho and Lobster (from The New York Times)

Choosing a school based on their food offerings?!?

Make sure you check out this associated slide show:
So Long, Mystery Meat (from The New York Times)

WOW! The food looks amazing!

I guess if you are a young foodie, you should definitely consider Virginia Tech and Bowdoin.
hm...I guess I could always go back for a second masters or PhD... =)

I was really impressed with the food I recently had at University of San Diego (in their faculty and staff dining room). More about this in a future post.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Westgate a failure?

We were lazy tonight and decided to go to Little Saigon for dinner. Not much to was great, as always.

After dinner, I suggested going to Westgate City Center for an after-dinner walk. Patty commented/complained that there is "nothing there", but I decided to go there anyways.

In my opinion, this place seems like a complete retail failure. I understand it's only partially complete but what's currently there isn't at all interesting. If there isn't a sporting event or concert (at Arena or University of Phoenix Stadium), this place is a ghost town. Except for Yard House, I have no idea how the current restaurants and retail stores are surviving.

- minimal people walking around
- retail stores - pretty much empty
- Coffee Plantation - completely empty
- AMC Theaters - looked dead inside and nobody outside

"Entertainment Destination"? We'll see...

Places mentioned:

Little Saigon
7016 N. 57th Ave.
Glendale, AZ 85301

Salt Lake City - Day 3 and 4 Highlights

Highlights from my final day (and a quarter) in Utah (from two weeks ago):

Driving back to Salt Lake City from Logan, UT (on highway 80/91)...really beautiful views:
Highway 80/91Utah State Capitol:
Utah State Capitol Building
My final two meals in SLC were fantastic!

For dinner on last Wednesday, I had originally planned to try Cucina Toscana. They've won a bunch of awards (including 2008 Best Restaurant -SLC and Best Italian Restaurant awards from Salt Lake Magazine). I arrived at 8:45pm and saw that there were a bunch of people waiting. I tried to locate bar seating (generally a good spot for single diners) but didn't see any so I decided to move on.

My next choice was Metropolitan. Metropolitan has an even longer list of awards than Cucina Toscana. I walked by and noticed that the place was basically empty (except for the servers and one table). This seemed so strange so I decided to pass on by. Maybe it's past its prime...

Final choice was Settebello (2008 Best New Restaurant award from Salt Lake magazine). The place was pretty packed (even at 9pm on a Wednesday), but the four counter seats in front of the kitchen were available. Here's a shot of the exterior:
Settebello - exterior
I ordered the Quattro Stagioni ($10.99; Margherita Divided Into Four Sections. Each Section Topped Separately With Wood Oven Roasted Sausage, Salame, Roasted Mushrooms, Calamata Olives) and a Peroni ($4.49).

I watched my pizza being prepared. It was pretty amazing...they popped the pizza into the oven, and in less than a minute, it was out (and bubbling). According to their website, the pizzas take about 45 seconds to bake. Here are a few shots:
Settebello - Quattro Stagioni
Settebello - pizza ovenThe pizza was fantastic! I thought the crust in the middle was a bit soggy, but it tasted incredible (I folded each piece for stability). I was only planning on eating one piece from each of the quarters, but couldn't stop and ended up finishing the entire pizza. =)

I even had room for a (huge) scoop of nocciola (hazelnut) gelato. Along w/ the huge portion was a hefty price ($4.99). I asked the server if they made the gelato in-house and she said it was from Dolcetti Gelato (their website seems to be down currently). It was quite good. I finished the entire dish. Here's a pic:
Settebello - Nocciola gelato from Docetti Gelato
The next morning I had planned on grabbing breakfast and then heading to the airport to catch my flight. When I got outside, it was snowing! Here's what my rental car looked like:
snow on my rental car!
Good thing there was a snow scraper in the car!

For breakfast, I went to Finn's Cafe. It's a very cute and cool place. Here are a few shots of the place:
Finn's Cafe - exteriorFinn's Cafe - interiorFinn's Cafe - interior
I ordered Norwegian Waffles ($8), one egg ($2), and a large OJ ($3.25). The waffles were served with lingonberries, sour creme, and strawberries. They were fantastic - very light and fluffy. I finished the entire plate. The OJ was fresh squeezed (always good). Here's a pic:

On my way to Finn's, I passed by Dolcetti Gelato - here's a pic:
Dolcetti Gelato - exterior
Here's a street scene (it reminded me of growing up in Wisconsin):Salt Lake City street scene
If I'm ever back in SLC, I'll definitely return to Cafe Trang (Day 1), Olio (Day 2), Settebello, and Finn's. I'd also make plans to try Cucina Toscana. One thing I would never do though, is return to McGrath's (Day 1). I'm staying far, far away from that place...yuck!

Final thoughts about SLC...I was pretty impressed! I guess I wasn't expecting much from SLC but I ended up enjoying my first visit.

When I got back to Phoenix, I decided to grab lunch at LGO. I ordered a Stacked Turkey sandwich ($7.95; nine-grain bread with avocado, tomato, lettuce, havarti, mustard and mayo). It was's a pic:
La Grande Orange - Stacked Turkey sandwich
Salt Lake City - Day 1
Salt Lake City - Day 2

Places mentioned:

260 South 200 West
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

Finn's Cafe
1624 South 1100 East
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105

La Grande Orange
4410 N. 40th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85018

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Kite Runner

We watched The Kite Runner last night. We thought it was a great movie. The scenes of the kites flying were really beautiful (although they are actually computer generated). Both of us also have read the book, but it's been too long to compare the book to the film. Both are excellent. Read the book and see the movie!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Music and Lyrics

Watched Music and Lyrics today on recommendations from both of Patty's sisters. Patty liked it. I thought it was barely watchable. We both agreed it was too long. It's only 96 minutes long but it seemed much longer...

If you are a guy: pass
If you are a girl: watch it (based on the opinions of 3 women)
If you are a guy watching with your S.O.: you better suffer through it

Lazy Sunday

We've been thinking about buying bikes for a while now...

Two of our friends are moving soon so we bought their bikes. This morning Patty and I went on a short ride. We -
  • picked up two movies from the Redbox kiosk at Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market (Music and Lyrics and The Kite Runner)
  • had donuts and coffee at Jana's Bakery
  • went to Fresh & Easy to buy eggs, pears, and guava nectar
It's so nice to be able ride around. I really haven't ridden a bike since childhood. When I was growing up (in Madison, WI), I used to bike around everywhere.

For lunch we made a shrimp pasta. Here's a pic:
Shrimp pasta
  • spaghetti
  • shrimp
  • basil (home-grown)
  • tomatoes (home-grown cherry and store bought roma)
  • garlic
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
It was really easy and super tasty.

I'll post reviews of the movies separately.