Saturday, July 30, 2011

Don't Judge a Burger by its Size

Scottsdale often times get a bad rap due to its infamous reputation for producing snobby and plastic people. While this isn’t my cup of tea, Scottsdale has a lot to offer in terms of unique and trendsetting restaurants. I like that there are local restaurants and few franchised chains. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am not a fan of cookie cutter eateries and love to explore the vast options of places to eat.


Earlier this week RC, her niece S&M (it’s definitely not what you think) and I ventured to the Snobsdale Fashion Square to do a little shopping. On the way there we were debating on where to eat for dinner. As we drove down Scottsdale Road, there were more than enough options to choose from. The million dollar question was - What were we hungry for? We drove past Stax Burger Bistro and instantly I consulted my restaurant bible - Yelp. While the place only received three and a half stars, the majority of the reviews were four and five stars. The biggest complaint was that the portions were slider sized and they were expecting regular sized hamburgers. We decided that this place was a go. Shopping we went and by the time 8 O’clock rolled around, we were famished. 




We walked in and found that we could seat ourselves where ever we wanted. We had beaten the dinner crowd which was a good thing since Stax can probably fit about 50 people comfortably inside. I loved the ambiance as it produced a laid back atmosphere with funky furniture and lighting. S&M thought I was a nut for taking pictures of pretty much everything. RC just rolled her eyes and stated that I always take pictures of my food and the places we eat at. I am a food blogger after all! Who wants to just read about places that I’ve eaten and not see the pictures as well? Don’t forget about the food porn!


I digress...our waiter, Kyle (who was an awesome server by the way) immediately came over to the table and gave us the low down on the menu. The burgers are prepared like sliders with 3 oz. patties with a variety of different burger combinations and meats to choose from. If you are into exotic meats, then Stax is for you. They have anything from ostrich, deer, elk and duck confit burgers. He went over the specials and then let us fend for ourselves on our dinner decisions. So many choices and they all sounded delicious! I decided to ask Kyle what his recommendations were and go from there. He advised that his favorite was the buffalo burger which had melted Muenster cheese, an onion ring and peach BBQ sauce. I was sold and ordered mine medium rare ‘cause I like my burgers still moo’ing. RC got the turkey burger and S&M got the chicken burger. We also ordered the totz, rings, and sweet pots.


We got the fried goodness first and of course I threatened my friends if they didn’t let me take pictures first. So they obliged and I started snapping away. I have a thing for sweet potato fries and let me tell you that Stax has amazing ones, especially when I dipped them into the spicy aioli. It was a flavor bomb in my mouth - the fire from the aioli dancing with the sweetness and savory from the potato was unmatched. It was absolutely genius and I was bound and determine to get the recipe one way or another. S&M fell in love with the jalapeno aioli which I shied away from at the beginning because I was afraid that it had either sour cream or ranch. Either of those ingredients would make for a disastrous night. But later found out that the base was mayo and was glad I asked otherwise I would’ve missed out on a flavorful aoili. I wasn’t too thrilled with the chipotle and the honey mustard and red pepper were good but not as delicious as the spicy aioli. I later found out that the aioli was made with two simple yet powerful ingredients: sriracha and mayo. No wonder it was love at first bite - I’m obsessed with the Asian red chili sauce.


The tater tots were just as good as the sweet pots. Tater tots have always had a special place in my heart ever since elementary school cafeteria lunches. I love breakfast and the fact that you could have hash browns in a different shape for lunch was amazing. Tater tots became even cooler when Napoleon Dynamite came out in 2004.

We were half way through our fried goodness when the star of the night made its appearance. The burgers were teeny tiny and if I must say so myself - cute. I love the concept of sliders since you can pick and choose a variety of options without committing to just one burger. It’s definitely a great way to watch your portions as well. Despite the size of the burger, it was a thick burger and I had to practically smash it in order to get my mouth around it. Don’t judge a burger by its size because you definitely miss out as my buffalo burger had to be in the runnings for the best burger that I’ve ever had. It was so juicy it was running down my fingers and each bite was just as flavorful as the next. The buffalo had a slight hint of gaminess but if you didn’t know any better you’d think you were eating 100% good ol’ American beef. The burger was cooked to my standards - very pink in the middle with a charred crust on the outside encapsulating the juiciness. The peach BBQ was sweet, tangy, and the onion ring added the perfect amount of crunch.


It’s probably a good thing I didn’t order more than one slider because by the time I had finished mine, I was beyond full but with a happy tummy. We all agreed that Stax was an awesome place to take a chance on as it went above and beyond our expectations. The service was excellent - Kyle was very attentive and our glasses were never empty AND he gave us the not so secret ingredients to the jalapeno and spicy aiolis.

For Scottsdale, this place is reasonably priced. Between the three of us, our tab was about $10 each. The burgers each range from $4 - $7; appetizers $3 - $7; and drinks (which I didn’t get this time) range anywhere from $3 - $7 with a wide variety for every palate. They have a variety of red/white wines, sangria, hand crafted local beers, exclusive mixed drinks, and of course the familiar mixed drinks and beers. I will definitely be returning and getting my drink on!


Here’s the scoop for Stax Burger Bistro courtesy of Yelp:
4400 N Scottsdale Rd
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(480) 946-4222        
www.staxburgerbistro.com/        



Hours: Mon-Fri 11 am - 10 pm; Sat-Sun 11 am - 12 am        
Takes Reservations: No   
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Parking: Private Lot
Attire: Casual
Good for Groups: Yes
Good for Kids: No
Price Range: $$    
Delivery: No
Take-out: Yes
Waiter Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes
Good For: Lunch, Dinner
Music: Juke Box
Best Nights: Fri, Thu, Sat    
Happy Hour: Yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
Smoking: No
Coat Check: No
Drive-Thru: No
Noise Level: Average
Good For Dancing: No
Has TV: Yes
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes


Monday, July 18, 2011

An Ode to Gelato

You may or may not know this, but I’m partially lactose intolerant. That means that I can’t digest ice cream, sour cream or ranch - three of my favorite things! I have found substitutes for sour cream (greek yogurt) and ranch (blue cheese) but hadn’t found anything to replace my beloved ice cream.

I remember as a child going to Baskin Robbins with my dad and trying samples of the various ice creams on the bubble gum pink miniature spoons. I instantly fell in love with pistachio almond which everyone thought was odd for a 10 year old. I loved the creamy, nutty, slight almond flavor in each delicious bite. In fact one year I had an ice cream cake made with it which grossed out my friends.  He was also a big fan of pistachio almond. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree huh?

It wasn’t until college that my lactose intolerance kicked in. I remember feeling awful after eating any thing dairy and couldn’t figure out why. It finally hit me what it was when I told mom who is also lactose intolerant. It had to be possibly the worst day in my foodie life. How on earth was I going to live without pistachio almond ice cream?! Blizzards?! Coldstone?! Frosties?! Milkshakes?! WOEFUL DAY!

I tried lactose enzymes and lactaid and nothing worked. I finally gave up ice cream cold turkey and my mouth watered every time I saw an ice cream commercial or my friends indulging in the frosty treats when it was 150* degrees outside.

I finally found my substitute when I took a trip to Vegas with a friend. We were exploring Aria and came across Jean Philippe Patisserie - a sweet tooth heaven. There were so many delicious looking desserts I didn’t know which one to pick or try. I wandered over to the gelato section and saw all of the wonderful flavors. I asked the girl at the counter what gelato was made of and she advised that it wasn’t like ice cream and someone that is lactose intolerant could eat it! That was music to my ears! Finally after 7 years I was able to find an ice cream substitute  that I could eat and not get sick!


I couldn’t decide what flavor to get so I decided on the cheesecake and coconut. I took a bite and literally had a foodgasm - a food orgasm! The texture was incredible - silky, smooth, rich, sweet, creamy...deliciousness in my mouth! I’m sure I made a spectacle of myself moaning in delight, but I was in gelato bliss!




So fast forward to this evening. RC was craving ice cream and volunteered to go to Mickey D’s for ice cream cones for her and SIL and apple pies for me. RC was gone longer than usual and did not return with Mickey D’s. She came back with something far better - gelato! Pistachio gelato to be exact from Ciao Bella. It was love at first bite. The taste reminded me of my childhood trips to Baskin Robbins with my dad which made me happy and nostalgic.


It’s amazing how food can be such a comfort and bring back fond memories. I’m elated that I am finally able to enjoy my favorite frosty treat! If you haven’t tried Ciao Bella, I highly recommend it! You won’t be disappointed.

Buen Provecho!
Thimetis - The Hungry Latina

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dining on a Budget


So if you haven’t already figured it out yet, I’m a big fan of eating out, trying new restaurants, and cooking. While I don’t have a formal education from a high end culinary school, I know what tastes good and I will write about it. Whether you want to try it out is up to you. I always say - don’t knock it until you try it!

I don’t know about you, but eating out can get pretty pricey! I have found various ways of eating out on a budget since I tend to do it pretty frequently. Many restaurants have coupons for free appetizers or entrees when you sign up for their emails or “like” them on Facebook. There are also websites dedicated to providing you a fine dining experience at half price or better. If you know about these websites, bear with me and you may learn something new!

Groupon
When you sign up with Groupon, they will send you an email with their daily deals that range from 30%-80% off original price. For example, the promo in Phoenix today is for Ticoz Resto-Bar. You pay $13 for $30 worth of food. That is a savings of 57% or $17 off! This is a great way to try new restaurants, bars, salons, family activities in your area. The best thing is that you can access Groupon anywhere in the nation so if you are visiting family in say Houston, you could search Groupon for deals in that area and show your family your foodie expertise. You also have a chance to make money off Groupon or get yours for free if your friends purchase the deal of the day you recommend.

Living Social
Similiar to Groupon with minor differences. The first one is that they do travel packages so if you are looking to do a weekend get away or a week vacation and want extra perks, LivingSocial is the place to look. Also, they have promotions for the East and West Valley for food, family outings, pampering, etc. Signing up for their daily email ensures that you will never miss a deal. You do have to strike while the iron is hot as the deals usually only last 24 hours and sometimes there are limited quantities which can sell out quickly. I have purchased several deals from LivingSocial and I haven’t had a bad experience!

Deal Leak
The great thing about Deal Leak is that it shows all the current deals from a variety of websites so that you don’t have to look on each website. If you decide that you want to purchase an ongoing deal, Deal Leak will prompt you to their website. Groupon, Living Social, Plumb District, and Travel Zoo are a few of the names listed on this website. It was because of this website that I discovered restaurant.com.

Restaurant.com
I got an email from Travel Zoo one day and saw a link for discounted gift certificates to local restaurants so it piqued my interest. Low and behold I found a gold mine of places to eat for dirt cheap! I was able to get $125 worth of gift certificates for only $12. Yup you read that right - I was able to get four gift certificates to American Junkie in Scottsdale, Salvadoreno in Mesa, a $50 gift card to the restaurant of my choice and Fuego Tacos. There are a few restrictions that aren’t too painful - most require that you use the coupon in one visit, there may be specific times you can visit (i.e. lunch only or dinner only) and some are  not valid towards alcohol. Here are the non-negotiables as I like to call them - 18% gratuity is automatically added on (this shouldn’t be a big deal since 20% is the norm) and there is a minimum you can spend (the ones I purchased are $35 min). This is a great way to try different restaurants in your neighborhood or in a different part of town.

Email Lists
Many chain restaurants will also have an email list where they will send out coupons for free dessert, entrees and  appetizers. Some will even give you a coupon where kids can eat free with the purchase of an entree (Chili’s). It’s also a great way to be in the loop with new menu items or ways to get free food. Who doesn’t like free food?! I have seen coupons for Chili’s, Applebee’s, Panda Express, Jamba Juice, Elephant Bar to name a few.

Coupon Etiquette
Hopefully you all know the rules of eating out (what you should and shouldn’t do) but it’s important to have a little refresher course. When you dine with coupons, always tip on the full amount before the discount/coupon. If you can’t tip at least 20% then you shouldn’t be eating out anyways. Remember - tips are how servers, bussers, and the hostess get paid so remember that when your service is sub par or the server is rude. You don’t know if they’re having a bad day or if they have crabby customers. So be considerate and kill them with kindness!

If I missed any other helpful websites for dining out, please by all means leave a comment because I want to get on that mailing list as well!

Buen Provecho!
Thimetis the hungry latina

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Feeling the love Already!

Fellow friend and blogger threw me a bone today in his blog. Thanks Chris!
Against The Flow: Food Porn!

Random Thought of the Day


Ok so this post is out there but it’s essential to add it in because it does offer some significance as to why I chose my theme. My two roommates are my BFF’s and the majority of the time we are together when not working. So we will shop together, go out to eat together, get mani/pedis together...you get the picture. So how awesome is it that my theme has three extremely good looking ladies sitting around a table chatting while sharing coffee together after a long strenuous day of shopping?! Yea that’s what I thought too so it was fitting that I used it!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dining the Night of the Haboob

“Vegetarian: an old Indian word for bad hunter.”
Author unknown

Preface - I committed a cardinal sin when writing a review! I forgot to take pictures :( Next time friends! Oh and you better believe that there will be a next time!!

They were onto something when they named this place Dick's Hideaway. My friend and I felt like we were on a treasure hunt to find this hidden gem. We passed it probably 3 times as it is disguised with a sign that says "Additional Parking in Rear". No sign with their name but they are right next door to Luci's Grocery Store on the Northwest corner of 16th Street and Bethany Home.

Once we finally found the speak-easy like restaurant we were surprised at how small it was. There was a bar section that could seat a max of 10 people and then 3 booths against the wall. There was a room next door with an extensive wine cellar and tables big enough for 6-8 people. The room was dimly lit to give it an intimate feel but not too gag-me-with-a-spoon romantic as there were several flat screen TVs with the DBack's game on. They have a wood burning stove that gives the restaurant a campfire smell...making it seem that you're in the middle of nowhere in the wild west at a divey saloon (but much more classy).

On to the good stuff...I had researched the menu prior to getting there to give myself an idea of what they had. I was excited to see that they had breakfast and then sorely disappointed when I found out it's only served until 4 PM. Yelp considers this place Tex-Mex but I would have to disagree and say that it's definitely got a taste of the 505 (New Mexico speak for those of you that aren't in the know).

As I mentioned in my previous review, whenever I go to Mexican style restaurants, I will judge them by their enchiladas. I decided to be on the wild side tonight and try something different. I went with the Carne Adovada since the server advised it was spicy and I like it hot and a glass of the Malbec. My friend opted to get the red, white, and blue enchiladas.

While I normally love Malbecs, this one was more on the "eh" scale as it was too earthy and overly ambitious with the tannins. So if you like a strong red wine, this one is for you!

We got our food and they were not joking when they said the plate was hot. You can get third degree burns from those steel embossed cowboy-like plates. Also, if you are watching your calories or trying to control your portions...this is definitely not the place as the servings could feed two people.

The Carne Adovada was delicious...the meat was tender, juicy, with a red chile kick and topped with a layer of melted gooey cheddar cheese. The rice and beans were tasty and the homemade tortilla made the meal complete. My friend let me try her enchiladas and let me tell you - they do not disappoint! Next time I will definitely be getting those!

We were in a food coma getting ready to go home and put on the stretchy pants when we were informed that there was a massive dust storm taking over metro Phoenix. I felt like I was back in CO experiencing a blizzard of sand. So we decided to stick around for a bit longer. Good thing we did because we wouldn't have been able to try, by far, the greatest flan I've ever tried. Dare I say better than my mom's flan? Gasp...I would dare say so! The flan was delicately creamy with just the perfect amount of sweetness in every bite. I've never had a flan that was a mousse-like texture and not custardly. Hope you like flan cuz that's the only dessert they have there!

Overall, I give Dick's Hideaway a 4 because I can't give them a 4.5. The service was great and our server was friendly. The food, ambiance, and good company made the night. I will most definitely be returning to the hideaway known as Dick's.

Dick’s Stats (taken from Yelp):
6008 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85014
(602) 241-1881        
www.richardsonsnm.com

Hours: Mon-Sun 7 am - 1 am
Good for Kids: No
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Parking: Private Lot
Attire: Casual
Good for Groups: No
Price Range: $$    
Takes Reservations: No
Delivery: No
Take-out: Yes
Waiter Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No
Wi-Fi: No
Good For: Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast
Alcohol: Full Bar
Noise Level: Average
Ambiance: Casual, Intimate
Has TV: Yes
Caters: No
Wheelchair Accessible: No
       

Spinato's Pizzeria Review - Chandler

“Avoid fruits and nuts. You are what you eat.”
Jim Davis

My friend had recommended Spinato’s Pizza so I decided to try it out with her since I had never been and she had liked it. Spinato’s is a locally owned family pizzeria that started in Phoenix in 1974. They now have 5 locations spread throughout the valley. Since I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants, I was more than excited to try this new pizzeria especially since it was Chicago style pizza. The best pizza I ever had was in fact in Chicago.


We arrived around 5:30 on Friday evening and the place was starting to getting crowded. The hostess seated us in the bar area since it seemed like a more ideal place to sit versus the dining room. She dropped off the menus and advised that our server would be with us momentarily. We waited about 15 minutes or so before our server acknowledged that we were in her section. She got our drink and food orders since we had more than enough time to make up our minds.


My friend opted to get the Going Greek salad (side $3.99) and the Tomato Basil Bruschetta ($7.29). I decided on the personal 7” sized Baked Spaghetti Calzone w/meatballs ($5.49). I decided to not drink as I had to drive and I wanted to get dessert.


She got her salad and the bruschetta which she shared with me. When I think of bruschetta, I imagine it on a sturdy crispy piece of french bread or baguette  not on a piece of focaccia. Now don’t get me wrong - I love focaccia as much as the next person, but focaccia isn’t a sturdy piece of bread to pile on tomatoes drenched in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bruschetta was good but did not blow me away by any means. It had good flavor but it’s not something that sticks out in my mind.



 Half way through the bruschetta, our server brought the baked spagetti calzone which was enormous and I got the smallest size! I can only imagine what the other sizes look like (out of control). It smelled delicious and had marinara sauce spilling over the top of it. I took my first bite and was absolutely horrified by what I tasted. The sauce was sweet?! Who on earth makes sweet marinara sauce? That should be a crime! It didn’t even have the slight essence of Italian herbs that are a requirement in all marinara sauces and the sweetness was overbearing. I had to doctor it up by piling on the parmeasan and the red pepper flakes before I deemed it edible. I was able to eat half of it before I decided it was time for dessert. 




 The dessert was Spinato’s only saving grace from getting one star from me. I’m partially lactose intolerant and can’t eat ice cream, ranch or sour cream (I know my life sucks!) they had gelato which I can eat! My friend got two scoops of vanilla bean and chocolate and I decided to get pistachio, raspberry sorbet, and vanilla bean. The gelato was decadently smooth and creamy. I wasn’t thrilled about the pistachio as I could sense the almond extract in it and I’m not a fan! The raspberry and vanilla bean made up for it. The raspberry sorbet was tart and sweet and mixed with the vanilla bean balanced each other out.





We had to be wheeled out because we were so full...it was official - I had a spaghetti calazone baby! Overall, I was not impressed with Spinato’s and there are better pizzerias in Phoenix that one can go to. I like that it’s locally owned, a family owned business, and their gelato.


My review: 2 out of 5 stars


Spinato’s Pizzeria
4848 E Chandler Blvd
Phoenix, AZ 85044
(480) 961-0208        
www.spinatospizza.com    


Taken from Yelp:
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 11 am - 9 pm
Fri-Sat 11 am - 10 pm
Good for Groups: Yes
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Parking: Private Lot
Attire: Casual
Price Range: $$    
Good for Kids: Yes
Takes Reservations: Yes
Delivery: Yes
Take-out: Yes
Waiter Service: Yes
Outdoor Seating: No
Good For: Lunch & Dinner
Alcohol: Full Bar
Noise Level: Average
Ambiance: Casual
Has TV: Yes
Caters: Yes


   

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Welcome to Amateur Hour

Geoffrey Neighor, Northern Exposure, Duets, 1993

Ok, I’m going to forewarn those who are reading my first blog post…this is a work in progress and the first time that I’ve had a blog (unless you count Myspace). So needless to say – I’m overwhelmed by the website and the various options available to me to customize my page. So if anyone can give me pointers or advice, I’m all ears!

I have so many thoughts swirling around that I don’t even know where to start….

I decided to start blogging my food adventures because I love writing, experiencing new restaurants/bars/clubs/recipes/places you name it, I probably want to try it. I have done some soul-searching lately about what makes me happy and what doesn’t. I came to terms that my life has become somewhat robotic and is lacking the creativity and spunk which has prompted me here. It’s been a while since I’ve felt inspired so I turn to the first thing that I know how to do best…expressing myself through writing.

Sometime this year I actively started taking pictures of the food I would order and post them on my Facebook page. The response was positive – people liked seeing what I was eating, where I was going, and soliciting advice on where to go. My friends now know that if they go out to eat with me, I always require photos before digging in. I also became an avid Yelper and consult it before ever stepping foot into a food establishment. I officially became the restaurateur among my friends.  Then it occurred to me that I could blog about it! So I researched various blogs – food, traveling, recipes, reviews, etc. and realized that I could do this and have fun.

Amateur hour is officially over the evening. Do you have a food adventure to share? If so, I’d love to read about it! Until then, create your own food adventure!

-Thimetis