Snoh Experience

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With Arizona’s high summer temperatures quickly approaching, Snoh is a place you must go try!

Snoh is a cross between ice cream and shaved iced — originally called bao bing — and can be historically tracked as early as the seventh century in China.

Thank goodness us Phoenician can conveniently drive over to Snoh to get a taste of this cool treat. The consistency is quickly addicting and feels like light fluffy snow that is so airy it just evaporates on your tongue in a cotton candy-type of way.

On the few visits I have made to Snoh, I ended up just staring up at the menu for a long time. I am so indecisive because, quite honestly, everything sounds interestingly good and my curiosity takes over.

With options like the Sesame Street (black sesame Snoh, M&Ms, Oreo cookies and butterscotch) or Mountain of Dew (honey dew Snoh, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, mochi balls and caramel), it’s just too hard to decide.

Their best seller, the Breakfast Bowl (milk crème Snoh, Fruity Pebbles, strawberries and condensed milk), is a taste bud’s dream come true!

The small parlor is always hopping, and to some patrons, is a neighborhood place to hangout — people chatting, laughing and playing board games fill the quaint space.

If you haven’t tried it for yourself, you must. It’s definitely more than just a stop at your local ice cream joint, it is an experience!

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Drexyl Experience

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We were invited to try out the new Drexyl, located at The Shops Gainey Village in the Gainey Ranch neighborhood. A lot of restaurants have been in and out of this particular space and I was excited to visit the newest culinary addition to the valley. Executive Chef, Robert Eckhardt is serving up modern American cuisine with influences from his German and Italian background, pulling recipe ideas from his grandparents and great-grandparents. The dishes seemed to have a personal touch and hit on a lot of flavors from my own personal childhood. I would label it as “comfort” modern American. We got to sample a lot of items off the menu and I narrowed down a few of my favorites;

Chef’s Board– havarti cheese, herb crusted goat cheese, soppressata salami, pickled vegetables, calabrese sausage, gorgonzola, fig jam and toasted bread. Everyone loves a good hearty board and this one does not disappoint. The board is a generous size and perfect to share with a variety of selection. This board is on the happy hour menu and I am already looking forward to coming back and pairing it with some glasses of vino!

Seared Salmon Salad– sustainable salmon glazed with blood orange puree, red bliss potatoes, warm bacon vinaigrette, baby lettuces and roasted tomatoes. This salad could be my new favorite entrée. The salmon and greens give it a light and springtime feel, but then as you dig deeper you discover the German potato salad that lies underneath. This adds a hearty element to the salad and have you coming back for more!

Jade Pesto Halibut- cilantro pesto, forbidden black rice, shiitake mushrooms, baby bok-choy and coconut curry. This halibut was fresh, light and flaky but kept the meatiness a fine-cooked Halibut should have . This dish was absolutely delicious, and I love how the pesto was not over powering but only enhanced the fish. Paired with shiitake mushrooms and baby bok-choy which added a slight Asian flare to the dish but kept it very light.

Heritage Pork Chop- house smoked, double cut; grilled apple butter served with truffle goat cheese orecchiette pasta, candied bacon & seared brussel sprouts. The grilled apple butter gave this pork the perfect amount of sweetness that compliments pork so well. Comfort is written all over this dish. Served with Goat Cheese pasta, which was a rich and addicting mac n’ cheese, that had a hint of truffle! Oh yea!

Bread Pudding- milk chocolate, candied pecans, roasted banana with maple whiskey butter sauce. Delectable and full of rustic sweet flavors this bread pudding is a winner. It held together with a solid consistency (where a lot of bread puddings can become mushy) and softened perfectly as the maple whiskey butter sauce soaked in.

When sampling a lot of dishes, I always expect there to be at least one or two I don’t care for. This wasn’t the case at Drexyl, I thought each dish was well thought out and executed perfectly. The variety of dishes on a menu that offer both light and heavy meals makes Drexyl a place you want to visit again and again. This foodie is very happy about the newest addition at Gainey and will be a repeat customer.

 

 

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Paradise Valley Burger Co. Experience

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I decided to close out 2015 with a burger binge. Yes, this may make me sound like a glutton, but I was determined to knock a few local valley burger joints off my “must try” list. Well, I am glad one of my stops was the Paradise Valley Burger Company. Located off Bell Road just east of the 51, the unpretentious exterior masks the food treasures that lie inside. The layout is casual with counter service and I was surprised how crowded it was for Tuesday night. The menu is small and straight forward and offers burgers, sandwiches and tacos. The small line gave me some time to narrow down my burger choice and I decided on the PVCheese with cheddar and jalapeño ranch with all the fixins; lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, cucumber. My dining companion decided on the Burger Brulee; fried egg, bacon, onion, burnt sugar and Havarti. We both got a side of fires, mine were seasoned. The man ringing up our order, who I later found out was the owner, assured me we made a good choices.

As we sat and waited, I was glad our order didn’t take very long as mouthwatering aromas lingered in the air and other patron’s burgers were making me envious. Finally, I got to sink my teeth into my burger, and it was delicious! Served on a toasted brioche bun that does not steal attention from the perfectly cooked, flavorful meat. The cucumbers were a nice twist giving the burger a fresh garden taste. The pickled onions paired wonderfully with the jalapeño ranch and I was thoroughly enjoying each savory bite. I snagged a bite of my friend’s interesting and surprising Burger Brulee. This unique burger contains salty elements with the fried egg and bacon but the sweetness of the burnt sugar is the forefront. The complex contradicting flavors make you want more and more! The fries, both regular and seasoned, were perfect. They complimented the burgers exactly how a good side of fries should.

I am so glad this was one of my stops on my burger binge. I pass this area almost every single day on the 51 and you can bet I’ll be pulling in for some burgers to-go for dinner!

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Biscuits Experience

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Since spending years in the south and getting addicted to biscuits & gravy, I have been on the lookout for those fluffy biscuits and creamy gravy here in the valley. I think I found my new favorite spot. After a rather long hike in South Mountain I was craving something filling and thankfully I was in the right spot, as Biscuits in Ahwatukee was just 5 minutes away off Elliott & 48th St. This locally owned and operated establishment is not to be confused with a national chain, Biscuits Café. This is the real deal, home cooking, at its finest with local organic ingredients used whenever they can get their hands on them.
From the outside it looks like every other strip mall joint but on the inside you are greeted with a country barn motif. From haystack with quilts to sit on while you wait for your table, to a quirky wind chime of forks & tea pots, it’s simple down home comfort. We were greeted with a smile and had a short wait but then it was noon on a Sunday. The service is friendly and on-point but in some ways reminded me of a mom serving breakfast to the family, quick and busy. Given the size of the place and the wide variety on their menu I was pleasantly surprised when our food came out only 10-15 minutes after we ordered.
The look on my face must have said it all, our waitress started laughing, when she saw my expression as she laid the beautiful plate on my table. I ordered the South Mountain Scramble with southern grits and it was wonderful. The fluffy yet dense open-faced biscuits were laid down first then covered with scrambled eggs with diced country ham, and then smothered with a country gravy that was so thick and frankly smelled like heaven. Let’s take that again but in slow motion, so as to describe each layer. The biscuit was the size of my fist and golden brown and has the fluffy insides and crunchy outsides every biscuit should consist of. The diced ham in the scramble was almost sweet yet savory as well. I would imagine as a side that ham would make me wonder if bacon is in fact my favorite breakfast meat. The eggs were light and complimented the ham and biscuit while keeping an understated flavor as the obvious primary flavor of the dish was the country gravy. This gravy was thick and the perfect white with dark specs. Again, I tasted a dash of sweet enveloped by a savory and spicy. Together these ingredients were simply wonderful. As a side to this winning breakfast dish you can get hash browns, country potatoes with peppers and onions, or southern grits. I realize grits aren’t for everyone, I gained my love of them during my years in Alabama, where I learned southern grits are quite different then grits from the rest of the U.S. These grits are salty and almost cheesy and so think you could almost cut it. If you are looking to try true southern grits and you have never had the opportunity here is your chance.
The rest of the menu look equally as exciting and every dish that was walked by us looked tasty. The pancakes were the size of a Frisbee and they had other classics as well, corned beef hash, chipped beef, steak & eggs. They even have fried spam! Their lunch menu is also as varied and just as classic but I have a feeling it’s going to be some time before I get to it. There are too many things I want to get through on their breakfast menu first.

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CoR Experience

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A new Tapas and Wine Bar opened up on 12th street in what was once a post office. The owners kept the shell but redid the entire space to create a wonderful environment with lots of natural light with big windows in the front. They reused some of the wood for the bar and the art work perfectly matches the ambience. The owner and his father did a lot of the work themselves and you can see the love of their restaurant in their work and in their story. It opened in late November and they are working through some details with the menu but the service is friendly and knowledgeable.
While we experienced some issues with their ordering system which delayed our order, they were very apologetic and kept checking on us to make sure we understood what was happening. Nothing I wouldn’t expect from a new restaurant fine tuning their service. The owner was happy to share their story and it turns out he was also the mixologist on their extensive sangria menu. I ordered their Desert Island Sangria and found it to be refreshing and enjoyable. With white wine, vodka, coconut water, and pineapple juice, it definitely had the air of a perfect beach drink.
We ordered multiple tapas starting out with the CoR board with Ricotta Salatta, Danish Fontina, Manchego, Serrano Ham, Coppa Capicola, and Calebrese Soppressata. Our favorites where the Fontina and Serrano Ham. Following we had the Albondigas which were meatball with mariana and asiago. The meatballs were slightly overcooked but the sauce was divine and I would happily take a jar of the sauce home with me. Our next dish was the Cor-Tobello with was a nice roasted Portobello sliced and laid in a balsamic reduction with cured tomatoes. Each part of this dish was enjoyable and while a bit on the small side was well prepared and presented. Our last tasting was the Patatas Fritas which were friend fingerlings, with ground meat and melted cheese. You also have the option of doing a tomato basil aioli with mozzarella if you want to keep it meat free. The potatoes were perfect and while the combination of the meat and cheese were good, the aioli and mozzarella option sounded like a better option for this tapas.
Cor has a solid starting point and as every restaurant experiences, will have a few points to fine tune. Make no mistake this midtown neighborhood is in a great location and has the heart and soul of a locally owned winner. With the love and dedication we learned from the owner he has for his restaurant we can easily see this becoming a neighborhood favorite with just a few updates. We look forward to coming back and fighting the crowds at this soon to be crowded restaurant.

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Crackers & Co. Cafe Experience

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Crackers & Co Café started out in 1984 in an industrial looking area in Mesa and has since expanded into Tempe and a second location in Mesa as well. Popular valley wide and for good reason, I decided to venture down to the Tempe location to try it out. Years ago I remember a friend taking me to the original location in Mesa and I thought, this can’t be good, I feel like I am walking into an office space. But I remember having a great lunch and this trip would not contradict that memory at all.
It is located in the same complex as “The Dump”, although Crackers & Co sits right at the street up against Elliott & just east of Priest. Easy to find and a lot bigger than I remember the original location to be. The larger size & nice size patio was great because this Sunday brunch visit had a line with people sitting outside waiting their turn. We probably had a 30 minute wait and while I am not a person who typically waits, the names kept being called and it felt like it was quicker than 30 minutes. The restaurant itself is nothing to get excited about. It has a Mediterranean décor that reminded me a little of an Olive Garden. The guests keep returning for another reason, the food and the service.
Our waitress was quick, efficient, and friendly. Checking on us in a regular fashion, keeping us updated on the food, and refilling drinks as needed. Knowledgeable on the menu and helpful when trying my hardest to make decisions. All this without us feeling watched or pressured in any manner. I find that is a hard balancing act for any server and without a doubt she was perfect. You feel a little like family.
Starting out with a Bloody Mary, it was brunch after all, that comes in a mason jar and the usual accompaniment. One of the best Bloody Marys I have ever had, and I have had my fair share. It was all about the mix and it was a wonderful one at that. I don’t know what was different about it but it quenched my thirst that morning. For brunch, we has the California Eggs Benedict & the Beggar’s Omelet. The eggs benedict were cooked perfectly with a nice over easy egg and hollandaise sauce with a sprinkling of nutmeg. It comes plated on an English muffin, avocado, tomato, and spinach to give it the “California” portion of the title. I like to think it makes it a healthy option, but the fried hash browns on the side pretty much foiled that plan. The Beggar’s Omelet comes covered in provolone and bacon with sausage, diced ham, green peppers, mushrooms, and green onions. You have to like meat and cheese to love this one and luckily my dining partner did.
The menu had about 10 other items I would have loved to try; including, a giant cinnamon roll. We saw this come out of the kitchen right after we finished our giant breakfast. We debated having “dessert” but agreed instead to comeback another time.

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