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From our Homepage: An LTHer’s Guide To Cactus League Eats

From our Homepage: An LTHer’s Guide To Cactus League Eats
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  • From our Homepage: An LTHer’s Guide To Cactus League Eats

    Post #1 - March 5th, 2015, 11:09 am
    Post #1 - March 5th, 2015, 11:09 am Post #1 - March 5th, 2015, 11:09 am
    This is an excerpt from an article on our homepage. Click here to read the full article.

    Image
    The Cheese Crisp at Los Olivos

    An LTHer’s Guide To Cactus League Eats
    by Dominic Armato (aka Dmnkly)

    “Pitchers and Catchers Report” takes on a very different meaning when you move from Chicago to Phoenix. No longer a harbinger of less frigid weather, it is instead a reminder that hot summer is about to give way to very, very, very hot summer and soon we will all be on fire. But before we combust, there’s the glorious month of March, when the skies are a brilliant blue, Phoenix is the center of the baseball universe (sorry, Florida), and those in the restaurant business are never more content to be so exhausted . . .

    Click here to read the full article.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #2 - March 6th, 2015, 3:38 pm
    Post #2 - March 6th, 2015, 3:38 pm Post #2 - March 6th, 2015, 3:38 pm
    Dom,

    I was back in PHX in January to visit my sister. Took her and her daughter back to Andreoli: it was just as good this year as last, and just as friendly. Had the daily special tripe. Ummm. Also discovered Hue Gourmet on my own. Wow, lots of dishes I was unfamiliar with--and I *know* Viet food. Terrific place.

    Keep up your great work!

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #3 - March 7th, 2015, 6:05 am
    Post #3 - March 7th, 2015, 6:05 am Post #3 - March 7th, 2015, 6:05 am
    Dom,

    Your photos are making my mouth water...even at 6am. The green chili tamale from El Bravo that you recommended while out there last Spring was pretty much the culinary highlight of my Western road trip. I owe you big time for that one!

    Have to say, though, that I'm not at all happy to have missed New Mexico Grill's green chile pork stew. That thing looks amazing. :)

    Excellent write up, Dom. Thanks for sharing.
  • Post #4 - March 7th, 2015, 11:18 am
    Post #4 - March 7th, 2015, 11:18 am Post #4 - March 7th, 2015, 11:18 am
    And from the Arizona Republic, here's a complete guide to all of the ballparks in the Cactus League, every affiliated team, AND, most importantly, the food available at the respective ballparks. (My favorite place, Scottsdale Stadium, now serves Anchor Steam Beer and garlic fries, just like they do at the SF Giants home park.)

    So, who trains in Florida anymore?
  • Post #5 - March 7th, 2015, 11:48 am
    Post #5 - March 7th, 2015, 11:48 am Post #5 - March 7th, 2015, 11:48 am
    Perfect timing on this article- I'm heading to Phoenix for spring training Wednesday morning!
  • Post #6 - March 7th, 2015, 12:25 pm
    Post #6 - March 7th, 2015, 12:25 pm Post #6 - March 7th, 2015, 12:25 pm
    Chuckies was once based out of Dewitt, Iowa. He hits up San Diego Chargers games, races, and fairs across the West.
  • Post #7 - March 12th, 2015, 1:39 pm
    Post #7 - March 12th, 2015, 1:39 pm Post #7 - March 12th, 2015, 1:39 pm
    Beautiful Dominic. Thank you for doing this, what a perfect guide.
  • Post #8 - March 13th, 2015, 2:14 am
    Post #8 - March 13th, 2015, 2:14 am Post #8 - March 13th, 2015, 2:14 am
    Thanks, all!

    Looking forward to seeing a little action in the Phoenix/Scottsdale thread :-)
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #9 - March 17th, 2015, 2:03 am
    Post #9 - March 17th, 2015, 2:03 am Post #9 - March 17th, 2015, 2:03 am
    Geo wrote:Dom,

    I was back in PHX in January to visit my sister. Took her and her daughter back to Andreoli: it was just as good this year as last, and just as friendly. Had the daily special tripe. Ummm. Also discovered Hue Gourmet on my own. Wow, lots of dishes I was unfamiliar with--and I *know* Viet food. Terrific place.

    Keep up your great work!

    Geo



    We headed to Hue Garden this evening but must admit that we ended up at Deer Garden instead. The place was pretty much packed the entire time we were there. Their main dishes are various fish soups. I have never tried fish soups before as most of the noodle houses in Tucson are chicken or beef stocks. The food was quite excellent. Their $8.95 dinner includes the soup, two add-ons, and coffee or tea.

    We saw at least three or four restaurants that deserve some attention on future trips.
  • Post #10 - March 19th, 2015, 12:48 am
    Post #10 - March 19th, 2015, 12:48 am Post #10 - March 19th, 2015, 12:48 am
    Geo wrote:Dom,

    I was back in PHX in January to visit my sister. Took her and her daughter back to Andreoli: it was just as good this year as last, and just as friendly. Had the daily special tripe. Ummm. Also discovered Hue Gourmet on my own. Wow, lots of dishes I was unfamiliar with--and I *know* Viet food. Terrific place.

    Keep up your great work!

    Geo


    I met the owner of Hue Gourmet last night and he was genuinely surprised at all the attention that he has been getting from this thread. He says he has had several people coming in from Chicago for multiple visits.

    I have been eating in the various pho houses in Tucson two times a week for the past six months. All of the dishes are S. Vietnamese and are generally pretty good. You will find almost none of those dishes on this menu.

    The first dish we tried was the Bahn Bao. It was a flat dumpling steamed in a banana leaf that was covered with shrimp flakes and green onions. The owner showers us how it was traditionally eaten. You roll up the dumpling and dip it into the fish sauce. It was a pretty interesting dish.

    The second dish was Bun Bo Hue, a soup dish. The owner made sure that I realized that the soup contained beef and pork. First, the soup broth came pretty close in flavor to Tom Yum soup. The meat included a fresh pork hock sliced including bones and pork skin. It also included sliced beef, meatloaf, and what looked like a blood sausage (dark red). The noodles were thick wheat noodles and it was served with bean sprouts, basil, lime and a vegetable that we could not identify. At first, we thought if was onions or cabbage. Our best guess was that it was dried cabbage.

    The third dish was the Bahn Xeo, a pancake that contained shredded potatoes and shrimp. It was served with romaine leaves and vegetables and the pancake was to be eaten wrapped in the romaine.

    Overall the food was great and the customers were well, interesting. There is nothing like walking into a place of elderly Asians and having two grandmothers jump up and yell "Hook 'em horns" in response to my Texas polo shirt.

    I do not think that this would be a place where I would take someone completely unfamiliar with Vietnamese cooking. I think that I would start off with more familiar offerings like Deer Garden or UnPHOgettable.

    There are about 15 different restaurants in the mall. Only a few are visible from the street. By the way, Mekong plaza is about one mile from where the Cubs play.

    ==================

    Today, after a long and very profitable stop at Winco Foods, we drove down through Gilbert, AZ and stopped at New Mexican Grill.

    I had the Carne Adovada Frybread. It was pretty good. They do a strong lunch business and should you stop in, get there early.
  • Post #11 - March 19th, 2015, 8:02 am
    Post #11 - March 19th, 2015, 8:02 am Post #11 - March 19th, 2015, 8:02 am
    Great report Joe!

    I love that resto, so many northern Viet foods that one just doesn't encounter very often. There's one place in Montréal that serves only Banh Xeo. Love that dish, an omelette from another world!

    BTW, also in Gilbert is an interesting planned community called Agritopia, which is pretty much centered on community gardens. It's worth a drive-through, just to see how it's organized.

    Geo
    PS. What are you doing so far from your regular beat--I mean, how long since you were in Whitewate??!! :)
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #12 - March 19th, 2015, 10:45 am
    Post #12 - March 19th, 2015, 10:45 am Post #12 - March 19th, 2015, 10:45 am
    jlawrence01 wrote:Our best guess was that it was dried cabbage.

    I'm guessing that's the shredded banana blossom?
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #13 - March 19th, 2015, 10:48 pm
    Post #13 - March 19th, 2015, 10:48 pm Post #13 - March 19th, 2015, 10:48 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:
    jlawrence01 wrote:Our best guess was that it was dried cabbage.

    I'm guessing that's the shredded banana blossom?


    That is correct. I googled some pictures and that was what it looked like.

    I have committed myself to another trip to Phoenix in April. Have you tried any of the other places in Mekong Plaza?
  • Post #14 - March 20th, 2015, 1:22 am
    Post #14 - March 20th, 2015, 1:22 am Post #14 - March 20th, 2015, 1:22 am
    Mekong Palace has some pretty solid Dim Sum, but I haven't gotten deep into the regular menu.

    I like their hot pot satellite quite a bit, but that's more a function of the dearth of hot pot than it is their excellence.

    I really like Wholly Grill. It's a very approachable angle on Filipino -- not so much with the funk and the bitter and such -- but they make tasty grilled meats and the lady who runs the place is a total sweetheart.

    I totally dig Deer Garden Signatures, both the fish soups and the stone rice bowls. I get a stone bowl with lap cheong, Chinese bacon, and a symbolic bit of bok choy with a little side of fish broth and I'm pretty tickled.

    Taiwan Express is a little hit and miss. Some dishes are pretty good, some are significantly less so. Most scratch the itch, at least.

    I'm not a big fan of either Com Tam Thuan Kieu or Unphogettable, the former because I don't think it's especially good and the latter because while crisply executed, it's kinda sanitized.

    The bakery (name escapes me) is pretty darn good, but I'm not much of a baked goods junkie, so I haven't tried a lot.

    The banh mi place that you can only enter from the outside was pretty lousy for the first couple of months after it opened, though I've heard one report that they've improved. Haven't been back recently.

    Never been to the Thai joint up front, and in the food court, I haven't tried the other Vietnamese stall, the sushi stall, or the new Chinese stall all the way in the corner, though I've heard the Chinese place has some really good stuff. I'm WAY overdue to get in there.

    I... think that's everything :-)
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #15 - March 20th, 2015, 8:12 am
    Post #15 - March 20th, 2015, 8:12 am Post #15 - March 20th, 2015, 8:12 am
    You're right Dom that Unphogettable is "kinda sanitized", but when you're taking your sister and niece out for their very first Viet in their lives, it fills the bill perfectly: a 'clean, well-lighted place', with good, friendly, alert, helpful waitstaff, and food that is correct, if not inspiring. :)

    The Thai place is a couple points better.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #16 - March 20th, 2015, 2:34 pm
    Post #16 - March 20th, 2015, 2:34 pm Post #16 - March 20th, 2015, 2:34 pm
    It will be Wholly Grill next month. I have not had any GOOD Filipino food since I retired. I had a Filipino employee who would prepare me a lunch entrée nearly every day she was in the office ...

    Mekong Palace will be next.

    Thanks for all the help.

    Geo - my first pho experience was right off the Outremont stop of the STM years ago. I agree with you that there are better restaurants to start off with. I do not know of too many friends that I would take to Hue Garden as a primer for Vietnamese cooking.
    Last edited by jlawrence01 on February 28th, 2016, 10:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #17 - April 29th, 2015, 2:51 am
    Post #17 - April 29th, 2015, 2:51 am Post #17 - April 29th, 2015, 2:51 am
    I miss the original Richardson's which burned, but the current location is pretty good. I enjoy Dick's if I'm alone on a weeknight on business because a) I can see my food better than at Richardson's, and b) I like sitting at the counter.

    I could probably eat their Carne Adovada three times a week.
    "Fried chicken should unify us, as opposed to tearing us apart. " - Bomani Jones
  • Post #18 - May 25th, 2015, 10:44 pm
    Post #18 - May 25th, 2015, 10:44 pm Post #18 - May 25th, 2015, 10:44 pm
    jlawrence01 wrote:It will be Wholly Grill next month. I have not had any GOOD Filipino food since I retired. I had a Filipino employee who would prepare me a lunch entrée nearly every day she was in the office ...

    Mekong Palace will be next.

    Thanks for all the help.

    Geo - my first pho experience was right off the Outermost stop of the STM years ago. I agree with you that there are better restaurants to start off with. I do not know of too many friends that I would take to Hue Garden as a primer for Vietnamese cooking.


    On my way back from Las Vegas, we stopped in Mesa at the Wholly Grill, the Filipino restaurant located in the Mekong Plaza. It sits immediately adjacent to Hue Gourmet. Do remember that was a couple days after we hit the three fast food Filipino staples - Jollibees, Chowking, and the Red Ribbon Bakery in Las Vegas (located in the Seafood City Mall).

    We had the pork skewers and the lechon plates. The skewers were excellent with great seasoning and a killer sauce. The lechon was also very good. It is not a dish that I would want to order often as attached to the pork is a layer of fat as well as the crispy skins. The taste was great,

    I would recommend it but probably would not eat there until I try the dim sum place (extremely crowded) and the Thai place.

    The Saturday we were there, there was a vendor with a cart labeled "Pancakes from Taipei" win by an older woman and her colleges aged daughter. They offered them in four flavors so we ordered one of each. They were about 2" in diameter and were excellent. She was not there during the week when we made other visits to the mall.
  • Post #19 - June 7th, 2015, 2:58 pm
    Post #19 - June 7th, 2015, 2:58 pm Post #19 - June 7th, 2015, 2:58 pm
    Geo wrote:Dom,

    I was back in PHX in January to visit my sister. Took her and her daughter back to Andreoli: it was just as good this year as last, and just as friendly. Had the daily special tripe. Ummm. Also discovered Hue Gourmet on my own. Wow, lots of dishes I was unfamiliar with--and I *know* Viet food. Terrific place.

    Keep up your great work!

    Geo




    Here is an interesting video on Central Vietnam cooking (Hue). The restaurants featured ate in the LA area.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LNOHeykABI


    And one on the north:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qwGAAwHLJI
  • Post #20 - June 7th, 2015, 3:29 pm
    Post #20 - June 7th, 2015, 3:29 pm Post #20 - June 7th, 2015, 3:29 pm
    Tnx for that Joe. Interesting stuff. I've had banh xeo here in Montréal, but it's hard to find. Awfully tasty. Never had any Hanoi food.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #21 - June 7th, 2015, 3:55 pm
    Post #21 - June 7th, 2015, 3:55 pm Post #21 - June 7th, 2015, 3:55 pm
    Geo wrote:Tnx for that Joe. Interesting stuff. I've had banh xeo here in Montréal, but it's hard to find. Awfully tasty. Never had any Hanoi food.

    Geo


    There is a lot of informative stuff out there on You Tube, especially from young Asian YouTubers in LA and Vancouver.
  • Post #22 - January 3rd, 2016, 1:14 am
    Post #22 - January 3rd, 2016, 1:14 am Post #22 - January 3rd, 2016, 1:14 am
    I have been back to Mekong Plaza three times since my last post.

    I did Deer Garden yet again. I would suggest that if you order the various fish soups that you add some of the side appetizers. One disappointment on my last visit was that they brought a huge platter of salt and pepper shrimp for the staff luncheon at 3 pm ... and item that I could not order as it is not on the menu.

    I tried Com Tam Thuan Kieu on my last trip. I thought the food was quite good. The best dish was the simple pork broth that was extremely favorable. All you see is a very clear broth with a meaty bone on the middle. I liked the pork chop but it would have been better with a better cut of pork with a smaller bone.

    Today's meal was at Com Ga Hai Nam which is a small counter adjacent to Wholly Grill. I would say that this was the most unusual food that I have had at the mall. I ordered a goat curry which was goat meat and taro root served with this vermicelli like noodles and a vegetable that I am not familiar with. There was a small amount of goat in the dish and some of it appeared to be a kidney. I wanted to know more about the dish but the owner and I had a few communication issues. The spring rolls were the largest I have ever been served but they were pretty tasteless.

    Today, it was pretty much Filipino heaven as there were several large groups there. One dish that came recommended was the spicy fried chicken at Wholly Grill.

    This mall has to be the best "people watching" location in Phoenix. It was very crowded at 2 pm when I arrived.

    And like usual, the Ho Cakes were quite excellent.

    For those traveling to Phoenix this spring, I would recommend a trip to the bulk food department at Winco Foods in Chandler which is about five miles away from this mall. The spices are very fresh and are 15-25% of the price of those at Penzey's.
  • Post #23 - November 6th, 2016, 9:21 pm
    Post #23 - November 6th, 2016, 9:21 pm Post #23 - November 6th, 2016, 9:21 pm
    I tried Taiwan Express last month on yet another trip to Scottsdale and I can honestly say that it was one of the most forgetable meals that I have had ... and it was the most expensive meal that I had at Mekong Plaza.

    The salt and pepper calamari was chewy and greasy and came with no sauce. The other dish actually looked like something from Panda Express. The chicken did not taste all that good.

    The folks who own Mekong Plaza just opened a mega-store, the AZ International Marketplace. It is a megamarket that would dwarf an H-Mart. It is almost indescribable. It is similar to the International Marketplace In Las Vegas (Decatur and Tropicana) but it has a much larger fresh and frozen food selection. It is kind of like an international marketplace with an H-Mart attached.

    Its strong point for me is the wide variety of produce with very low prices. I have been bringing home Thai basil, three different kinds of Vietnamese Mint, three different kinds of bananas, and different fruits that I have never seen before except on Chopped. I must confess that I am buying a lot of food at the AZ Marketplace and Winco and skipping the options in Tucson.

    It features three restaurants. The Mexican one looks the most promising although I really did not have a chance to give it a try.
  • Post #24 - January 6th, 2017, 12:17 am
    Post #24 - January 6th, 2017, 12:17 am Post #24 - January 6th, 2017, 12:17 am
    Is anyone else unable to connect to PHX Food Nerds? I get an error every time I go to the URL.
    "I've always thought pastrami was the most sensuous of the salted cured meats."
  • Post #25 - January 6th, 2017, 6:36 am
    Post #25 - January 6th, 2017, 6:36 am Post #25 - January 6th, 2017, 6:36 am
    Independent George wrote:Is anyone else unable to connect to PHX Food Nerds? I get an error every time I go to the URL.


    It doesn't work for me either. It appears that the last time posts were made was in late November.

    https://twitter.com/PHXfoodnerdsXL/with_replies

    https://twitter.com/LaPanIAm/status/808094752411258880

    --
    edc
  • Post #26 - January 6th, 2017, 9:59 am
    Post #26 - January 6th, 2017, 9:59 am Post #26 - January 6th, 2017, 9:59 am
    It's possible, though I'm not sure, that the site was shut down when Dom took the job with the Arizona Republic.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #27 - January 8th, 2017, 1:55 pm
    Post #27 - January 8th, 2017, 1:55 pm Post #27 - January 8th, 2017, 1:55 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:It's possible, though I'm not sure, that the site was shut down when Dom took the job with the Arizona Republic.


    I don't think so - Dom took the job back in 2015, and the board was active as of a couple months ago. I remember looking up a few things before Thanksgiving.

    I know there are a lot of people with accounts on both boards, so I was hoping somebody in Arizona had some more info.
    "I've always thought pastrami was the most sensuous of the salted cured meats."
  • Post #28 - January 8th, 2017, 4:41 pm
    Post #28 - January 8th, 2017, 4:41 pm Post #28 - January 8th, 2017, 4:41 pm
    Across the street from the Mekong Plaza are two more interesting restaurants that are worth a try.

    Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle shares the name with a very famous noodle shop in Philadelphia. I am not sure that they are related. I will say that they make their own noodles in house and they have a wide variety of dishes and soups'

    Pho Winglee is a Vietnamese restaurant that has a very broad menu. I have had a couple of meals there and I must recommend the grilled pork dishes as they have a great deal of flavor.



    Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle - Mesa
    111 S Dobson Rd #108
    Mesa, AZ 85202
    Phone: (480) 275-5352
    http://www.nanzhounoodlemesa.com/


    Pho Wing Lee
    111 S Dobson Rd
    Ste 106
    Mesa, AZ 85202
    https://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-winglee-mesa-2
  • Post #29 - January 9th, 2017, 11:01 am
    Post #29 - January 9th, 2017, 11:01 am Post #29 - January 9th, 2017, 11:01 am
    edc wrote:
    Independent George wrote:Is anyone else unable to connect to PHX Food Nerds? I get an error every time I go to the URL.


    It doesn't work for me either. It appears that the last time posts were made was in late November.

    https://twitter.com/PHXfoodnerdsXL/with_replies

    https://twitter.com/LaPanIAm/status/808094752411258880

    --
    edc

    So glad to hear it is missed! :-D

    Temporarily gone, but not dead. Total server meltdown, but the folks who are now running the board have a timely backup and are working on getting it back up and running on a new server. Should be alive before too long.

    And thanks for the heads up on Wing Lee... that's one I've driven by 80 bajillion times and not quite managed to get into. I keep telling myself I want to blitz all of the pho joints, but then I remember that if I hit five a day, it'd still take me a few months. Oof.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #30 - January 9th, 2017, 7:12 pm
    Post #30 - January 9th, 2017, 7:12 pm Post #30 - January 9th, 2017, 7:12 pm
    ^^^

    I had not planned on trying Pho Winglee on Monday. We had just flown in from Cleveland and were looking for a hot bowl of noodles next door. However, as the Noodle House was closed on Monday and we did not want to brave the crowds at Mekong Plaza, we tried Pho Winglee. Now, I have to find an excuse to visit both again very soon (g).

    I stop by AZ Marketplace every trip to Phoenix as the price/quality of the produce is unbelievable and has no equivalent in Tucson.
    Last edited by jlawrence01 on February 1st, 2017, 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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