Rusconi’s American Kitchen Experience

He Said

 

Another strip mall treasure hidden in the plaza at Shea and Tatum. Rusconi’s has been there for a few years and I have had multiple people tell me I have to check it out and I am happy I did. My map app kept having me drive around the plaza and then telling me I had arrived but I couldn’t see it. Luckily, I ignored the constant turn directions and found it just north of the Z’Tejas. Once you get past the maze of a shopping center you will forget it all and be minutes away from a superb dining experience.
The space is long and surprisingly holds more people than it appears from the outside. We were seated in the back near the kitchen and that may have been the reason for the somewhat uncomfortable temperature in the dining area. Even our poor waiter was obviously over-heating, but that didn’t stop him from providing amazing service. Perfectly timed check-ins and great knowledge of the menu we were quickly able to make our selections. In fact, everyone on the team was helpful and visible; including, the manager and Chef. It’s always a good sign when you see the entire staff paying serious attention to every dish coming out of the kitchen.
The presentation of the dishes were spot on with some of the best restaurants I have dined. I chose the night’s special; which, was a Chilean Seabass on a bed of garlic spätzle and green beans. The pan sear was perfect on the Seabass and the inside was cooked to perfection. It melted in my mouth, bite by bite. The spätzle was a smart accompaniment with just enough garlic, not over flavored and without leaving you smelling like you just left an Italian restaurant. The other dish at the table was the sustainable salmon with a blackberry glaze, small potatoes, baby cabbage, and roasted corn. It looked amazing and indeed the dish did not disappoint. Both of the dishes were high quality meals without being pretentious. A statement the restaurant seems to exude throughout in every way, from the food to the décor and atmosphere. You never feel unwelcomed or uncomfortable in anyway.
We ended with the dark chocolate bread pudding. Wow! Moist bread pudding surrounded by a dark chocolate, sitting in a shallow pool of white sauce with berries. When I get bread pudding that is not dunked and sitting deep in a crème sauce I worry it will be dry and unappetizing. This was moist without falling apart. I can only assume the chocolate seals the moisture into the bread. I may never know this secret but let’s just hope it stays on the menu forever. There are so many great options on the menu I will be returning to try them out. However, it is important to know the menu changes seasonally so better get in quick before this great menu is replaced by another great menu.

She Said

 

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Jorge’s Chicken & Waffles Experience

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She Said

 

Let me start off by saying this restaurant is more than just chicken and waffles. Their menu is actually quite diverse and ranges from Mexican and American fare to Southern favorites.

The interior at Jorge’s Chicken and Waffles is bright and vibrant with a music/jazz theme throughout the joint. Trumpets hang on the wall, vintage LP record album sleeves serve as menu holders and a nice range of music is playing overhead.

We started with the carne asada fries — onions, cheese, olives and jalapenos are piled high onto a mound of fries. The flavorful pork was the clearly the best item on the plate, as the fries soaked up all the nacho-like flavors.

Because I was dining with a mac and cheese aficionado, an order of the jalapeno mac and cheese was a must. Everyone at the table had their forks up and ready as it arrived. Anytime there is a gooey string of cheese connecting the mac on your fork to the plate, it’s a good sign! It was a refreshing change to have a mac and cheese without a ton of ingredients overpowering the good old-fashioned taste you crave. Not too fancy, but delicious with a little kick of heat!

I went for Jorge’s signature item for dinner (I mean it is in the name of this restaurant). The chicken and waffles, dinner-style — one original waffle, fried chicken breast, jalapeno coleslaw, corn bread and country gravy. There is plenty of food on this plate, so I am not sure I needed to indulge in any appetizers to start.

The chicken is extremely tender and moist, breaded with a delicious mix of traditional southern spices with hints of the Southwest. The waffles are puffy and thick with the perfect deep square nooks for all that yummy butter and syrup to pool into. Each are great on their own, but together is a smash hit.

The corn bread and gravy were also very good — traditional gravy with a peppery kick is exactly what I was looking for and got. The cornbread was not sweet, but more on the earthy side and had a tiny hint spice that jazzed it up from the usual corn flavor I am used to. I couldn’t get enough of the waffle and chicken and I can proudly say I devoured them both completely.

Last, but not least, I have to mention my drink choice. It was a weekday so I opted out of the temping adult beverages and went for the kid favorite, Kool-Aid. Orange was the flavor of the day and turned out to be the perfect pairing with my chicken and waffles. The only downside is (and my dining companions can confirm) I was on a sugar high throughout the rest of meal and well into the night, but it was so worth it!

 

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Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Experience

He Said

 

Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails has gone through a reinvention with their new chef Sean Currid. It continues to have a very relaxed yet attentive atmosphere but with new menus. If you are looking for something lighter there are some amazing salads including a Quinoa salad with shrimp which was so tempting. IF you want something heavier and heartier there is the new burger, simple called “The Burger” but there is nothing simple about it. Either way we think you’ll be happy you took the trip downtown.
For our lunch journey we started with the fried green tomatoes with lump crab meat. Perfectly fried without feeling heavy and bready these tomatoes were fresh and with a slight sour taste to it you would expect. It sat on a bed of remoulade and lump crab meat was scattered on top. Fresh, sour, sweet, crunchy, smooth, this dish provided a lot for a starter.
Our main entrees consisted of The Burger and the Mt. Lassen Trout. Both beautifully presented and both on different sides of the health scale, which is exactly what we wanted. Sharing both plates gave us the best of both worlds. The burger is covered in a pimento cheese, bacon, pickle, on a pretzel bun. The best part of this burger was by far the pimento cheese. Not a fan of pimento cheese I had my doubts, but one bite and I was hooked. I am counting the days to be downtown again and devour this burger again. The second entrée was the trout which was perfectly cooked with brown butter on a bed of green beans in a golden raisin and caper sauce that was sweet but complimented both the fish and the beans perfectly. If only my mom had cooked green beans with the same spices I would have been a big fan of them. I cannot explain in enough detail how perfectly crisp, sweet, and savory they were. You will have to experience it for yourself.
Luckily for us, we had a little room left over for dessert. The pineapple upside-down cake was pure bliss. The cake was moist with a wonderful crunchy outer layer. It was covered with just a few pineapple chunks and a scoop of date ice cream. All of this alone would be enough to make us happy campers. However, I saved the best for last. It comes presented in a cast iron skillet with bubbling hot salted caramel. It is smooth, salty, and provides the perfect balance to the sweet cake. So our advice is, don’t forget to save room because you will regret it if you fill up before you get to this sweet ending.

She Said

 

Walking into the Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails you get a swanky city vibe. The lively bar has a good mix of business people, hotel guests and nightly downtown visitors who are there for a concert or sporting event. We were quickly seated in the dining area at a corner table next to the window. We had a nice view of the restaurant, bar and outside patio. Our waiter quickly greeted us and was personable and helpful throughout our whole meal.

I started with a pretty pink cocktail called the Lost Melody. A vodka based drink with grapefruit, coconut, pampelmousse rose and egg white serve in a coupe (my favorite!) This could be my new Spring drink, it was perfect with a smooth frothy texture and the subtle scent of roses gave me a whimsical sensation.

On to the Food! We started with the Hickman’s Deviled Eggs and the Tater Tots. The eggs instantly give you the familiar flavors of the traditional appetizer you knew as a kid. The whipped yolks, mayonnaise and hints of Dijon are all present but then you get the bonus…a fried egg yolk! Nestled in the white of the egg is a gently fried yolk with the whipped deviled mixture resting on top. This takes finger food to the ultimate next level. It is a fantastic mix of an American favorite with a modern day twist.  Tater Tot time: looking like your normal tot you bite in and quickly find they are filled with smoked bacon! Served with a romesco (nut and red pepper-based) dipping sauce which made these addictively good and I knew I would be back to the Blue Hound for these crispy delights.

Next was the Cured Strawberry and Fennel Flatbread. The fresh sweet strawberries combined with earthy arugula and bitter fennel gave me visions of summer in the country. Atop a slightly salty flatbread “He” and I both said this would be a great ‘light fare” with cocktails.

The Crispy Salt N’ Pepper Shrimp were next to arrive at the table, unpeeled and heads still attached, we had a little work to do  before enjoying these meaty guys. Chef Stephen suggested just diving in with our hands and that’s exactly what we did. Messy fingered and having WAY too much fun we agreed these were a homerun! The salt n’ pepper (and other spices) were so good I had to eat one of the shrimp with the shell on to get more of those flavors. It came with citrus aioli that was a perfect addition and didn’t steal any attention away from the shellfish.

For an entrée I ordered the BBQ’d Beef Short Ribs with Blue Cheese Grits. The presentation was incredible! Nestled in grits the giant bone-in short rib was so big part of it was hanging out of the small cast iron pot. I forked off pieces of this hearty meat from the bone and went speechless, OH GOSH this was good! The meat was cooked perfectly with tender and tougher textures weaved together in one bite. Hints of smokiness and seasoned flavors lurked but the natural flavors of the meat were most prevalent. The blue cheese grits was the co-star to this dish adding a creamy, milky balance to the gamey meat. This was a Phenomenal Dish.

Though we devoured a ton of food this particular night, each dish stood out and continues to linger in my memory. The Blue Hound has successfully put together a magnificent menu and I am already wondering when I can fit another visit into my schedule.

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Dakota Experience

He Said

 

Coming Soon!

She Said

 

OK, I know what you’re thinking: A new restaurant in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale that turns into a bar/nightclub at night, how good is this really going to be? 

Well, the reason I am writing this is because I was so pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere and meal at Dakota I had to share my experience!

As you walk in, the interior is visually stunning. It gives off a bright and cheery vibe with a modern and sleek atmosphere. The beautiful décor includes ivy-covered walls, a collage of wood shutters around the DJ booth and rustic industrial fixtures at the bar. The outside patio is a must on those perfect Arizona days. Tufted couches and tables overlook Indian Plaza (the main nightlife street in Old Town Scottsdale) and you are sure to take in some great people watching. On this particular day, we were there way before the crowds, indulging in breakfast.

Chef Robert Cabrales has taken the farm-to-table concept and made healthy eating the forefront of Dakota’s menu. I noticed right away the word “organic” popping up all over the menu and decided on the Egg-cellent Sandwich — organic eggs, apple-smoked bacon, fresh green and scallion/herb mayonnaise on thick whole grain bread.

Whoa, this is one of the best breakfast sandwiches I have ever eaten. With each bite, the yolk of the egg oozed throughout the sandwich and was soaked up by the hearty, delicious bread. Nicely done Chef Cabrales!

Of course I was eyeing the Short Rib Hash my dining companion had ordered and demanded a bite. What an inventive dish — hash consisting of crispy yucca, roasted sweet potatoes, caramelized onions and peppers with tender short rib meat was topped with two poached eggs that, when cut into, seep into the mound of goodness. The combination of the earthy flavors of the veggies with the salty and meaty short rib is delectable.

I can’t forget to mention my choice of adult beverage that day, the Breakfast Bee. This isn’t your typical breakfast cocktail — Patron Café Incendio, cold-pressed coffee and topped with whipped cream. Fantastic! If tequila is a little too strong for you so early in the morning don’t fret, Dakota has prosecco ready on tap for mimosas!

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Thai Lahna Experience

He Said

 

Always searching for the best Pad Thai the city has to offer, I stumbled on one that is right down the street. I can’t count the number of times I have driven past this Thai restaurant. Always telling myself I should stop in at some point. Thankfully, I followed up on that promise and found a quaint Thai restaurant that serves up a pretty authentic menu, not to mention a mean Pad Thai.
Not much to look at, it sits in a little Arcadia strip mall with a Chinese restaurant and Bosa Donuts flanking each side. I have found this little shopping center actually has quite a few gems to be reckoned with. Stepping inside there are a few tables and a row of booths and we were instantly greeted and seated. Next, we were handed our menus of Thai options and as many Asian restaurants do, some that were a little outside the Thai experience. It had what I was craving which was some Pad Thai.
But first, let’s start with our appetizer. My first experience with Satay was actually on my way to Kuala Lumpur where I learned it was a staple in their country’s cuisine. I have since learned that it actually originated as an Indonesian meal but has become widely popular in almost any Southeast Asian country, either way I am glad it was on Thai Lahna’s menu. The chicken was grilled perfectly and the peanut sauce had just a little kick which makes it a winner in my book. It was presented with toast points and we weren’t sure if we should use them to make little chicken sandwiches or what. However, I loved the sauce so much I spread it on the toast like peanut butter. I could have had it alone for my meal but I continued on with my new favorite Pad Thai.
Thai Lahna lists their Pad Thai as Phaht Thai. A little research into this and it turns out it is a common second spelling. Either way you spell it, they do a good job in its representation. It is plentiful in size as I took ½ of it home for another meal, there will be no empty stomachs on this Thai journey. It’s important to note that for each of our main dishes we were asked how hot we wanted them and also were warned about the Thai hot levels. I, of course went mild because that’s how I like it. My dining partner went hot and they did not lie about the heat. He ordered the Shrimp in Cray Pot which oddly enough also comes with more than just shrimp in the pot. Octopus and scallops were also supposed to be in the pot we were told which led to some confusion when we were told they were out of scallops. Unsure of what transpired we went online to see if we just misread the menu. We confirmed it was just called Shrimp in Cray Pot, but alas, who complains when given something extra. Again, the presentation was great and a real conversation starter as it arrived in a fake silver pot with a few dings in it. The pot contained vermicelli noodles along with vegetables and the shrimp and octopus in their special sauce.
I am happy to add this to my neighborhood gems list and next time I want to enjoy some great Thai I will be giving Thai Lahna a visit.

She Said

 

Coming Soon!

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Celebrity Fight Night

Celebrity Fight night 2 (2)WhereShouldWeEat.com is excited to be invited to cover Celebrity Fight Night this year. The battle against Parkinson Disease is very close to our hearts here at WhereShouldWeEat.com and we will continually support charities that are helping find a cure to this neurological disease.

Recognized as one of the nation’s elite charity events, Celebrity Fight Night is a star-studded evening presented in honor of featured guest, Muhammad Ali. Celebrating its 21st year, the Celebrity Fight Night Gala will be emcee’ d by Grammy Award-winning leading lady of country music Reba McEntire, who will return as the evening’s emcee for the tenth year. Performers Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, Ronnie Dunn, Josh Groban, David Foster and many more stars will be there to celebrate their friend, Reba McEntire’s birthday. 16-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer, David Foster, will serve as Musical Director for his 16th year.

“This power-packed night of excitement not only leaves our audience with unforgettable memories each year, but throughout Celebrity Fight Night’s 20-year history we have raised more than $100 million for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute and other charities thanks to the tremendous generosity of our supporters,” said Jimmy Walker, founder of Celebrity Fight Night.

Celebrity Fight Night is on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix at 5:00 p.m.

For Tickets and More Information: http://www.celebrityfightnight.org/