Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What the Hell is a Muddle Anyway?

Be honest, your first thought when you read this title was "A non Magic.... er wait that's a 'Muggle'... what the hell is a muddle?"

Now I know some of you do know what it is, for the rest of I will try to enlighten you. But first, let me ramble for a bit.

When I was invited recently to a
Muddle Making Class at the Muddle Bar at deseo at Westin Kierland Resort, I was intrigued. Cocktails and mixology are, frankly, something I just do not know a lot about. I mostly stick to drinks like Jack and coke, or a nice stout or hefeweizen. Also, I often feel out of my element in higher end resorts and restaurants, but man, this just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up. So up to Scottsdale I headed.

When I arrived at the Muddle Bar at deseo, I was struck by the richness of the ambiance. The winding staircase, the deep woods and leathers, yes this is the kind of place that you want to go unwind (Or as Colleen Chase
said a bit later upon eyeing the leather padded wall, "Fitting they would put us in a padded room"). A tad overwhelmed I entered the bar area and prepared to learn about making Mojitos.

Ahhh see, some of you were thinking the muddle was the drink, but in reality the muddle is a wooden stick, slightly resembling a miniature baseball bat that is used to "create exotic cocktails by smashing together the freshest of fruits and herbs to release their intense flavors"
. The muddling action causes the essential oils in the fruits and herbs to co-mingle and create a great 'pop'.

The most easily identifiable muddled drink today is a Mojito, which involves 'muddling' lime and mint, then adding ice and simple syrup (a mixture of equal parts water and sugar), and then rum.

As we bellied up the bar where a fresh mojito was waiting for us, the lesson began. We were quickly introduced to the origins of rum and the mojito. The word 'mojito' it was explained, is actually derived from the African word, 'mojo', which means 'to put a spell upon'. When you think of the effects rum can have, it certainly is a fitting term. We also learned that rum is creating by fermenting and distilling sugar cane, that true rum originated in Barbados, and that the different spiced rums of the world are created using the native plants of that particular region, which is what gives the different and unique flavors.

It was a very informative session which had the added bonus of Chef Douglas Rodriquez
hanging out in the bar and interjecting as he wanted to clarify a point here and there. Now some of you may hang out with chefs, all the time, I do not. So that was a pretty cool thing to me.

Just as I was adjusting to the fact that I was relaxing in this fantastic bar setting, sampling a drink that had just been made and placed before me, the second part of the muddle lesson began. You see, by taking the original recipe, just as in cooking, you can add on top of the base flavors to make something unique with depth and qualities all it's own. This time, the mojito was enhanced with the addition of fresh berries

This created a drink that tasted only partly similar to the original. I had always thought that each cocktail had it's own unique recipe, and the idea of just expounding on the original drink was completely foreign to me (although it makes perfect sense).

We then learned that the drink could be changed just by changing it up slightly, instead of a splash of soda water, just use a splash of champagne! Susie Timm certainly was a fan of this concept. instead of champagne, use orange juice. The concepts seem so simple, and yet, who knew? You? Certainly not me!

Oh, aaaannnd then, as if this wasn't enough to hook us in and make us want to return, they serve white truffle oil popcorn. I'll let you savor this thought.
As the lesson was wrapping up, it dawned upon me(and maybe it was mentioned) that this was only the amuse bouche if you will. Next we were to head into the dining room, for what what I had thought would only be a light sampling of ceviche, but it quickly became apparent that it would be another lesson all to itself...

So what the hell is a muddle? In a way, this first instincts of the 'Harry Potter' Universe are not so far off. It certainly seems to be a magical instrument. Now if I could just figure out how to get the muddle to make me some butterbeer!

I want to extend a sincere thanks to Phoenix Bites and the very hospitable staff at the Westin Kierland Resort for allowing me to partake in #Tasteofdeseo.

...to be continued

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cupcake Love In

Scene: It's October 10, 2010 and I do not feel well. To put it mildly, I had just a bit too much fun at the Arizona Taco Festival the day before, and my stomach is letting me know that it does not approve.

Under normal circumstances, I would sit home, rest, and watch some football. Unfortunately for my stomach, I have entered myself into the Cupcake Love In Cupcake Eating Competition and my digestive tract is in for another round of severe punishment

We arrived at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale with plenty of time to wander around and take in all of the amazing cupcakes that the seemingly dozens of bakeries had to offer. I desperately wanted to try several of the offerings, including a Guinness cupcake and a red curry coconut cupcake, but I was singular minded, and I knew that anything I ate now would detract from my ultimate purpose, which was to stuff as many cupcakes in my face as possible in three minutes.

I'll admit, I was nervous, I was taking this event seriously, and I can put away some cupcakes, or as I like to say, "I can eat", but this was an all star line up of competitors. There was Jeff Kraus of Truckin Good Food, Chef James Porter of Petite Maison, Chef Wade Moises of Adobe Restaurant, and Zach Fowle writer for the Phoenix New Times. This was an intimidating line up and I knew I was not on my 'A' game, but driving me was the overwhelming desire to win.

I had trained for this day, yes trained. And, oh, the training was hard. For weeks I had been baking cupcakes and then doing time trials eating them. Then I would bake more and do more time trials. It was one of the most strenuos training regimens any man could possibly endure, except for, well, any other training regimen ever."Why?", you ask? Well, why not. It was a competition, and someone has to win. But now the day was finally here, and all the training looked to be for naught since my stomach was revolting on me.

When the event was mere moments away, we took the stage and were told that the competition had been cut from three minutes to two. The struck a direct blow to my strategy of longevity since I figured that third minute would be the make or break moment. But, c'est la vie, I thought (ok, fine, I tried unsuccessfully to get the third minute added back on), let's do this thing! I was lighthearted at first, but just before the countdown started, I zoned in and blocked everyone else out. It kind of scares me to see the look on my face at that moment.

Now, Zach Fowle gives a great blow by blow account of the different cupcakes he ate and his thought process as he was grabbing them and the time was running, but as for me, I know I has at least one red velvet, and a carrot cake, and I'm sure there was chocolate, and I tasted a lot cream cheese frosting, but as far as what I ate, in what order, I haven't the slightest clue.

That two minutes was nothing but a blur of cupcakes, frosting and water. I was aware of the emcee announcing our time cues, 1 minute left, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10, 9, 8...

I finished the cupcake in my hand and crammed one last cupcake in as the time ran out.

When the crumbs had settled and the frosting was wiped away, I started counting cupcake wrappers and realized I had managed to destroy ten cupcakes in two minutes. I was satisfied with that result but definitely not confident, especially when I heard that Jeff Kraus got eight down. But after recounting the wrappers and looking around and seeing everone staring at me, it struck me that I had won.

I was the Cupcake King.

(photo courtesy of Phoenix New Times)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Weekend is Upon Us!

Are you looking for something to do this weekend? Admit it "What are we going to do this weekend" has crossed your mind a time or two this weekend. Probably right after "wooooo! I can't wait until Friday!"

Well how about two great family friendly events that are foodcentric and charity driven?


On Saturday the Arizona Taco Festival invades the Scottsdale Waterfront. Spearheaded by David Tyda and Rick Phillips of EaterAZ.com, the AZ Taco Festival is being touted as the first taco festival, anywhere, ever. Can you believe that? There has never been a taco festival before. What a phenomenal idea. So come out on Saturday and eat tacos, drink cervezas and margaritas, and experience lucha libre first hand. It's gonna be a blast, and it's all to benefit Waste Not Arizona.

The best part, for me? They were crazy enough to let me join in and be one of the couple dozen judges who will be critiquing the chicken, beef, pork and seafood tacos turned in by the entrants competing for a $7500 grand prize. Suckers!!

See you there Saturday October 9, 10a-5p!


I dream of World Peace... and Cupcakes
Those simple seven words drew me in. And I was hooked. A Cupcake Love-In? What is that? And how do I find out more?

The brain child of pastry chefs Kelly Garcia of Butter & Me and Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals, the Cupcake Love-in is a way for local bakers and pastry chefs from the Valley of the Sun to come together and work together for something bigger, all the while indulging in the simplest of pleasures; satisfying your sweet tooth.

Set to benefit Singleton Moms and Safe Haven for Animals, the Cupcake Love-In is going down at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale on 10-10-10 from 11a-3p with the highlight being the Cupcake Eating Competition that I will be competing in at 1pm. That's right come see me and nine other people, ok well mostly me, make a fool of myself and stuff my face with as many cupcakes as can be eaten in 3 minutes. Other activities include cupcake sampling and judging as well as a raffle for great prizes.

So if you like sweets, or want to have a good time, or would just like to come laugh at poor unfortunate souls (me again) come on out on Sunday and don't forget your camera!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In the Kitchen With..

Recently I had the extreme privilege to visit with Jeff Kraus from Truckin' Good Food as he let me sample one of his new products: a profiterole that is a twist on his sublime "My First Time" crêpe that he tells me is his favorite on the menu. I was familiar with several of the crêpes offered on the menu and was extremely eager to try what I understand to be part of a "secret' menu that will only be advertised on Twitter/Facebook

This particular profiterole uses a creme patissiere that incorporates roasted bananas, and a nutella powder! that Jeff himself creates using what I call weird science. I know, I know it's not all that weird, but leave me to my delusions! The idea is to take the original crêpe and transform it into something slightly different and unique in it's own right, while maintaining the incredible flavor profile that T'GF is known for. After having sampled several of these profiteroles, I can truly say they they are "Truckin' Good!"

I know you are asking yourself, "How good is the parisian style street food that Jeff puts out?"Well let me put it this way: Most businesses have fans, and some businesses have passionate fans, but Truckin' Good Food has their very own stalker. "A stalker?" you say, "Surely you cannot be serious!" Oh, but I am, and I think I will let Yvette Roeder explain why herself.

"He handed me a crepe with the juiciest ham, the stringiest cheese, and fresh spinach leaves and wowed me.What he didn’t realize is I become an avid (also to be read: rabid) supporter of anything (and anyone) that wows me.

I will sing praises about them, I will talk about them ‘til I’m blue in the face, I will profess to the “world” about my love for them…all because they wowed me.

Jeff and Truckin’ Good Food have done that to me. That’s why I stalk them; normally, people pay me to do that."

Hey, wipe that drool off of your face, yes you, ok, that's better.

After taking a few weeks off at the end of the summer to escape the heat, recharge the batteries and retool Mr T, as the truck is affectionately known as, Jeff and his lovely wife Erin (aka the brains of the operation) will be back out traveling the valley and hitting local meeting spots such as the various farmer's markets they are regular attendees of. In fact the official fall relaunch happens this weekend October 3rd at the Ahwatukee Farmer's Market (48th street and Warner)

For more info on the menu and appearances check out the T'GF website or to challenge Yvette in her role as Truckin' Good Stalker join her for Crepe Conference 2010!

(Normally I would have posted some kickass pictures of Jeff or Mr. T but in truth, I forgot to take some, and I'm not that person to rip off someone else's shots. All pictures on this blog are mine and mine alone.)


As I was writing this I received word that T'GF had been named in the Phoenix New Times as Best New Food Truck 2010

I would like to extend a huge congratulations to Jeff and Erin as well as all of this years winners who pour their heart and soul into what is truly a labor of love!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hash House A Go Go

In retrospect, this breakfast was destined for failure from the beginning, through pretty much no fault of the restaurant's at all. You see... well, let me back up for a moment.

Click here to read the whole story

Did you go read the back story? Really? And you are still here? Cool. So let's talk about the FOOD!

The best part about the food, the most commonly discussed part, the gasp inducing part, is the sheer size of the food. I mean check out the size of this pancake:

So I know what you are saying, that looks good and all, but how big is it, reeeallly?


The portion sizing is enormous and the twists are ridiculous, Snickers FlapJacks, Beer and Bacon, Smoked Salmon and Basil Pesto scramble.. Yup, you need to take some time to drink in the entire menu. So with this whole diverse menu I ordered the Tractor Driver Combo with bacon and scrambled eggs and bumped it up to a Snickers FlapJack from a regular buttermilk. Other selections at the table were the Buttermilk FlapJack, another Tractor Driver (with potatoes), and then there was my wife who very wisely chose the Kokomo,which was griddled meatloaf, roasted tomato and smoked mozzarella on old fashioned milk bread.

When my food came and I dug in, I was less than impressed. I found the flapjack to be tough and chewy, except around the chunks of actual snickers bars, in which case there was a decadance and richness that was missing from the rest of the cake.

The eggs, which had I been thinking clearly I would have ordered fried, were very bland and slightly underdone, in the end i barely touched them. The bacon was, nothing special, it was just two slices of bacon. When Steve mentioned that he regretted not getting the bacon, Sarah and I simultaneously said "You're not missing much. So up until this point I was having serious second thoughts about the entire visit.

And then my wife spoke the magic words, "Here, try this." And try the meatloaf sandwich I did. The meat was moist and flavorful and the roasted tomatoes were so incredible that after taking that bite I poked my eggs with my fork, as if to say "Who are you, and how did you come from the same kitchen?"
The mozzarella was oozing out of the sides of the bread and the tantalizing smell of the tomatoes lingered just for a moment. This was purley delicious. This was the food that people raved about when describing the joint.

That sandwich alone convinced me that I had to come back again and try something more outlandish than pancakes and eggs. I do truly believe that they can put out some especially twisted food.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I were not to mention that the service was spectacular, the hostesses were welcoming and accomodating and the atmosphere of the restaurant was warm and inviting. This is not meant to be a negative review but rather an explanation of how poor circumstances surrounding the visit led me to not enjoy the entire experience.

If you are in San Diego, go try it out, step up and try a hash or a burger, and let me know how it is. And I promise you next time I'm there, I know a sage fried chicken benedict with my name on it!

Hash House a Go Go - The Back Story

When I decided to do a whirlwind trip to San Diego (leave Saturday morning, return Sunday afternoon), I solicited recommendations for a great place to go have brunch on Sunday and was told in no uncertain terms by Tony Morales and Erin Forney two people I highly respect, that I must visit Hash House a Go Go. I checked the website, forwarded the link to my wife and the couple we would be brunching with in San Diego, and properly salivating we made a plan.

So let's set the scene: Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the Hillcrest CityFest 2010 was happening on the same street as Hash and so not only were the streets blocked of and there were detours, but there was no parking for blocks around. So we circled the block, and finally found parking and while I was paying the meter, my wife went ahead to get us on the list. Once she did, she was told the wait was 45 minutes to an hour, which is to be expected of any decent place on a Sunday morning.

We were fortunate that the wait was only what it was, because as we waited we heard the wait grow to upwards of an hour and a half. So as we waited we fed the baby, and talked and people watched, and I noticed how helpful and efficient and unnerved by the ever growing crowd the staff at HH was. But as the wait became an hour and the baby started to become cranky, after all it was now after 11 and we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us.

Well about the time we were seated was about the time the baby's patience gave out and he remembered he was four months old and capable of ratcheting up the tension in any situation! He wanted a nap and he wanted one now and he didn't care who knew it. So now with all of the stress of the mini vacation, and the trying to get seated and the baby not being happy, and my blind determination to eat here, I made my final and largest mistake. Instead of going out on a limb and trying one of the more eclectic choices on the menu like Sage Fried Chicken Benedict or Rabbit Sausage, I settled for what was basically Pancakes and Eggs - The Tractor Driver Combo.

Why? A number of reasons but mostly being worried about an upset stomach in the middle of nowhere on the way back from California. So... like I said this meal was destined for failure because on top of everything else I was not confident in my food selection.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blog, already in progress...

(that means click here)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Updates Updates Updates

Why has this space spent so much time empty? Honestly, I'm not sure, I have plenty of material, but I just can't seem to force myself to sit down and write it all out. So once again, I commit to working harder to build this space into something I can be proud of.

I leave you with this promise of new material coming soon.