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Recs. for all over the southwest

Recs. for all over the southwest
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  • Recs. for all over the southwest

    Post #1 - September 28th, 2009, 11:04 am
    Post #1 - September 28th, 2009, 11:04 am Post #1 - September 28th, 2009, 11:04 am
    Hi All,
    Next week I leave on a study trip covering over 3000 miles of the Southwest by car to visit a great number of "earth work" land art sculptures. I have been assigned the duty of seeking out good food along our journey. We will hit Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and L.A. and I am compiling info about these stops from other threads. Any recs. for must do's in these cities would be appreciated. My bigger concern, however, is where to eat on the road in the less populated regions of the Southwest. So, our epic itinerary: Salt Lake City to Vegas, Vegas to L.A., L.A. to Prescott, AZ, Prescott to White Sands National Park, and White Sands to Marfa, TX. For those interested we are seeing Nancy Holt's "Sun Tunnels", Robert Smithson's "Spiral Jetty", Michael Heizer's "Double Negative", Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti, Walter De Maria's "Lightning Field", and wrapping things up with a tour of the many works of Marfa and the Chinati Foundation. Needless to say, we will be stimulated in many ways and I would like to plug in some culinary thrills as well. Any info on roadside eating in these regions would be great. I'll be damned if we spend a cent on corporate fast food. There's always the grocery, but the off-the-beaten-path mom-and-pop type joints are what I seek.
    Thanks!
    Eric
  • Post #2 - September 28th, 2009, 8:27 pm
    Post #2 - September 28th, 2009, 8:27 pm Post #2 - September 28th, 2009, 8:27 pm
    Prescott, AZ to White Sands sounds like you won't be in northern New Mexico at all, will you?
  • Post #3 - September 29th, 2009, 3:45 pm
    Post #3 - September 29th, 2009, 3:45 pm Post #3 - September 29th, 2009, 3:45 pm
    Alright, alright, maybe my thread title was too vague. I am gradually working up an itinerary, but still many gaps.
    Salt Lake City- one night, Red Iguana has come highly recommended on board and off.
    I-15 from Salt Lake to Vegas looks rough- any ideas?
    Vegas- one night, Makino Seafood & Sushi or Lotus of Siam. Breakfast at Peppermill.
    I-15 from Vegas to L.A.- anyone?
    L.A. still working on- Jitalda for sure. Roscoe's because we have to. Burgers. Taco trucks. Still cranking away.
    A stop in Phoenix for a lunch- Matt's Big Breakfast or Welcome Diner per Ronnie Suburban's recs. (greasy spoon fans in rank on this trip).
    Any recs. for Prescott, AZ? Flagstaff? I-40 into New Mexico? White Sands area?
    A lunch stop at Chope's for Southwest/Mex in Las Cruces per ParkerS's rec.
    Anyone been to Marfa?
    Thanks!
  • Post #4 - September 29th, 2009, 4:27 pm
    Post #4 - September 29th, 2009, 4:27 pm Post #4 - September 29th, 2009, 4:27 pm
    I don't know much about Makino in Vegas, but reading about it makes me think you'd be better off with either Sen of Japan for sushi or Raku for cooked dishes.

    If you make it to Carlsbad, I've always wanted to try Danny's. And in Santa Fe, I've always wanted to try Bobcat Bite.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #5 - September 29th, 2009, 5:08 pm
    Post #5 - September 29th, 2009, 5:08 pm Post #5 - September 29th, 2009, 5:08 pm
    Badlands Burgers of Grants, NM (on I-40) just won the Big Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge. I haven't tried it yet, but a friend was one of the judges and I trust her opinion.

    http://www.krqe.com/dpp/local_guide/on_new_mexico/onnewmexico_krqe_albuquerque_krqe_badlands_burgers_wows_state_fair_judges_200909222145

    Bobcat was not one of the contestants.
  • Post #6 - September 29th, 2009, 5:26 pm
    Post #6 - September 29th, 2009, 5:26 pm Post #6 - September 29th, 2009, 5:26 pm
    Jefe wrote:I-15 from Vegas to L.A.- anyone?


    It's kitschy, but cool. Peggy Sue's 50's Diner and Dinosaur Park. Don't worry. There are plenty of signs along the road. You won't miss it. It's just off I-15.

    Peggy Sue's 50's Diner and Dinosaur Park
    35654 E Yermo Rd.
    Yermo, CA
    760-254-3370
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #7 - September 29th, 2009, 5:30 pm
    Post #7 - September 29th, 2009, 5:30 pm Post #7 - September 29th, 2009, 5:30 pm
    Jefe wrote:Alright, alright, maybe my thread title was too vague. I am gradually working up an itinerary, but still many gaps.
    Salt Lake City- one night, Red Iguana has come highly recommended on board and off.!


    Three of the last three meals that I had in SLC were at The Red Iguana. The last one involved a 120 miles OW commute from Wendover, Utah. And we did not regret eating moles for Christmas Eve. Enough said.

    Crown Hamburgers and Hires Root Beer would be alternatives. Also, stop at the BYU Creamery in Provo. Ourside of the Babcock Creamery at UW-Madison, it serves some of the best ice cream in the nation among college dairies.

    Jefe wrote:I-15 from Salt Lake to Vegas looks rough- any ideas?.!


    When all else fails in rural Utah, I will stop at the Flying J Truck Stop for their home baked goods and their fruit plates. Please do NOT compare the CRAP, HEALTHY food that they serve in Utah with the total CRAP that they serve in Illinois. Also, ask any local about the best hamburger in town.


    Jefe wrote:Vegas- one night, Makino Seafood & Sushi or Lotus of Siam. Breakfast at Peppermill.?.!


    Mokino has pretty good sushi and other food. It is a Todai-type place where they exert a lot more effort to do it right. I would go back in a minute just to see the creative presentation of the food.

    I have been to LOS three times and been very disappointed with the execution three times. It is the most heavily promoted restaurants in the country and I just don't get it.


    Jefe wrote:A lunch stop at Chope's for Southwest/Mex in Las Cruces per ParkerS's rec..


    There was a very recent thread on Las Cruces. My favorite was Andele's in Mesilla. I would also recommend a stop at the Stahmann's Pecan Grove for their nuts and their ice cream.

    Jefe wrote:Anyone been to Marfa?c..


    There is little food wise to recommend in the Big Bend area, including Marfa. Even the chili around Terlingua was not that plentiful after people go home from the contest.

    Having said that, most places in the area can serve a pretty decent platter of fajitas.


    I would have responded to your earlier request but it was too broad and did not demonstrate that you used the search function. When you filled out your itinerary a bit, Iit was a lot easier to come up with what you might like.
  • Post #8 - September 30th, 2009, 9:09 am
    Post #8 - September 30th, 2009, 9:09 am Post #8 - September 30th, 2009, 9:09 am
    SLC could use one good restaurant in addition to Red Iguana. That place is indeed worth the stop, however, and you can also get a beer. Crown Burger is interesting and not terrible, but I can't imagine a long drive with one of those fast food incarnations of a Kuma's burger in your gut.

    PS, Jitalda (Thai Town, overlapping with Little Armenia) is right down the block -- a short walk -- from a Zankou Chicken and also Sahag's Basturma. For a great fancy burger in a place that's very Old LA, 25 Degrees in the Roosevelt Hotel is not too far by car. And you should seek out Langers (and only Langers) if you have any interest in deli.

    And shouldn't you consider going by Santa Fe for Bobcat Bite?
  • Post #9 - September 30th, 2009, 10:39 am
    Post #9 - September 30th, 2009, 10:39 am Post #9 - September 30th, 2009, 10:39 am
    Here's a list of green chile cheeseburger places in New Mexico, today is the last day for voting so it's a current list.

    http://www.newmexico.org/greenchilechee ... ballot.php
  • Post #10 - September 30th, 2009, 12:12 pm
    Post #10 - September 30th, 2009, 12:12 pm Post #10 - September 30th, 2009, 12:12 pm
    We were in Flagstaff last year and had lunch at Mountain Oasis. It's in the older part of downtown so it is a nice area to see. Mountain Oasis was kind of a hippie-ish, student-y, fresh squeezed carrot juice type place. Our group of four was quite happy with the food.
    http://themenuplease.com/mountainoasis/about.htm

    Did not make it to Arcosanti but I believe there is a cafe there and would love to hear a review.

    Outside of Phoenix going north, a lot of people swear by the Rock Springs Cafe for pie. I went there and thought the food and pie were just OK. However it does have good local color and a lot of people disagree with me about the pie.
    http://www.rockspringscafe.com/index.html
    "things like being careful with your coriander/ that's what makes the gravy grander" - Sondheim
  • Post #11 - October 1st, 2009, 4:11 pm
    Post #11 - October 1st, 2009, 4:11 pm Post #11 - October 1st, 2009, 4:11 pm
    gleam wrote:If you make it to Carlsbad, I've always wanted to try Danny's. And in Santa Fe, I've always wanted to try Bobcat Bite.

    We'll be be branching off 25 onto 40, so unfortunately we miss a lot of the good eats elsewhere in the state.

    jlawrence01 wrote:Mokino has pretty good sushi and other food. It is a Todai-type place where they exert a lot more effort to do it right. I would go back in a minute just to see the creative presentation of the food.

    I have been to LOS three times and been very disappointed with the execution three times. It is the most heavily promoted restaurants in the country and I just don't get it.

    Mokino seems like the best value too. And we'll probably skip Lotus of Siam and save our Thai for the esteemed Jitalda in L.A.

    JeffB wrote:PS, Jitalda (Thai Town, overlapping with Little Armenia) is right down the block -- a short walk -- from a Zankou Chicken and also Sahag's Basturma. For a great fancy burger in a place that's very Old LA, 25 Degrees in the Roosevelt Hotel is not too far by car. And you should seek out Langers (and only Langers) if you have any interest in deli.

    Noted, noted, and noted!

    LiketoEatout wrote:Here's a list of green chile cheeseburger places in New Mexico, today is the last day for voting so it's a current list.

    Very helpful, thanks!

    This is shaping up:
    Salt Lake City: Red Iguana
    Still nothing solid for I-15 between SLC and Vegas.
    Vegas: probably Makino, definitely Peppermill for breakfast.
    I-15 between Vegas and LA: two from Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives: Mad Greeks Diner in Baker (couldn't find the episode) and Emma & Jean's in Victorville (looks killer). Can anyone vouch for these? Noted is stevez's rec. for Peggy Sue's.
    LA: so much to do so little time! Jitalda for sure, Langer's, Roscoe's, The Farmer's Market and Grand Central Market, Sahag's Basturma and/or Zankou, Tommy's, El Parian, and Daikokuya Ramen- can we do it in three days?!
    Phoenix- Matt's Big Breakfast looked killer on DDD's. Welcome Diner if too packed.
    Still nothing at all for the Prescott, AZ area, only one hit on Yelp that I could find and it looked kind of dreadful.
    Thanks to the green chile burger contest website, sniffed out two promising spots in Quemado, NM: El Serape and Largo.
    Las Cruces area: Chope's or jlawrence01's suggestion of Andele's in Mesilla.
    Marfa seems pretty dry of options, but I think our tour will be feeding us and there's a fancy hotel El Paisano with an upscale restaurant.
    Thanks for all the suggestions, keep 'em coming if you can think of anything, in particular SW Utah and the Prescott, AZ area.
    Last edited by Jefe on October 4th, 2009, 11:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #12 - October 1st, 2009, 4:46 pm
    Post #12 - October 1st, 2009, 4:46 pm Post #12 - October 1st, 2009, 4:46 pm
    Jefe wrote:Still nothing solid for I-15 between SLC and Vegas.


    Didn't like my diner suggestion? I thought they were a diner crowd. Peggy Sue's is worth a stop. Beyond the kitsch, the food is solid.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #13 - October 1st, 2009, 4:54 pm
    Post #13 - October 1st, 2009, 4:54 pm Post #13 - October 1st, 2009, 4:54 pm
    stevez wrote:
    Jefe wrote:Still nothing solid for I-15 between SLC and Vegas.


    Didn't like my diner suggestion? I thought they were a diner crowd. Peggy Sue's is worth a stop. Beyond the kitsch, the food is solid.


    As noted above, Peggy Sue's is on our list, but its between Vegas and LA and not Salt Lake City and Vegas, right?
  • Post #14 - October 1st, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Post #14 - October 1st, 2009, 5:07 pm Post #14 - October 1st, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Jefe wrote:
    stevez wrote:
    Jefe wrote:Still nothing solid for I-15 between SLC and Vegas.


    Didn't like my diner suggestion? I thought they were a diner crowd. Peggy Sue's is worth a stop. Beyond the kitsch, the food is solid.


    As noted above, Peggy Sue's is on our list, but its between Vegas and LA and not Salt Lake City and Vegas, right?


    Sorry about that. One of these days I'm going to finish that remedial reading course.

    P.S. I've been to the Mad Greek's and was not all that impressed. Haven't been to Emma & Jean's, though.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #15 - October 2nd, 2009, 10:59 am
    Post #15 - October 2nd, 2009, 10:59 am Post #15 - October 2nd, 2009, 10:59 am
    I thought you wanted Flagstaff but it looks like you have switched to Prescott, AZ. Just curious, are you staying in Prescott or something? If you are already eating in Phoenix it's not very far. Also, it's off the highway. (Edited to add later: Looks like you were always going to stay in Prescott but I got confused by the request for Flagstaff eats. Nevermind.)

    Anyway, there is stuff in Cottonwood or Sedona not too far from Prescott.

    In Sedona I can vouch for the Elote Café--at least it was good a year ago. http://www.elotecafe.com/
    We also really like the Airport Cafe. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner so the hours are very convenient, and we really liked the food on our multiple visits. Great views up there as well.
    http://www.sedonaairportrestaurant.com/

    I had on my list to try the Pinon Bistro in Cottonwood (open Th-Sun) but never made it there.
    "things like being careful with your coriander/ that's what makes the gravy grander" - Sondheim
  • Post #16 - October 2nd, 2009, 4:45 pm
    Post #16 - October 2nd, 2009, 4:45 pm Post #16 - October 2nd, 2009, 4:45 pm
    I've never been to Prescott but my older guidebook has some places listed:

    Cafe St Michael
    Murphy's
    Peacock Room
    Palace
    Rose

    Also, if you go to Jerome, we ate at Grapes and liked it very much.
    "things like being careful with your coriander/ that's what makes the gravy grander" - Sondheim
  • Post #17 - October 6th, 2009, 12:02 pm
    Post #17 - October 6th, 2009, 12:02 pm Post #17 - October 6th, 2009, 12:02 pm
    Between SLC and Las Vegas? You have to get off the freeways and roam a bit but my favorite place in southern Utah is Cafe Diablo in Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

    http://www.cafediablo.com/
  • Post #18 - October 6th, 2009, 12:09 pm
    Post #18 - October 6th, 2009, 12:09 pm Post #18 - October 6th, 2009, 12:09 pm
    Davydd wrote:Between SLC and Las Vegas? You have to get off the freeways and roam a bit but my favorite place in southern Utah is Cafe Diablo in Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

    http://www.cafediablo.com/


    Since you mention Cafe Diablo, I would also mention the Sundrop Restairant in a nearby town. They are famous in that region for their sweet pickle pie and their sweet bean pie. Order the four pie sampler.

    Cafe Diablo is one of the few upscale restaurants near a national park that actually matches the hype. It is one of my favorite Utah restaurants.

    If you end up staying near Capitol Reef, head to the orchards at dawn. Beside looking at the petroglyphs, you will likely see a lot of wildlife including nests of owls.
  • Post #19 - October 6th, 2009, 2:59 pm
    Post #19 - October 6th, 2009, 2:59 pm Post #19 - October 6th, 2009, 2:59 pm
    In Prescott, the Raven Cafe has delicious food, great beer, good coffee, local art, and occasionally, live music. We had an unremarkable if fine dinner at the local brewery, too (on the square).

    In Flagstaff, we had fantastic Thai food (on par with Chicago favorites) at Dara Thai, in the same block as the Monte Vista Hotel. We actually went back our second night for a swordfish special they were offering. At the Monte Vista, we had a very good breakfast (just eggs/toast, etc., but perfectly done), and enjoyed drinks in the bar, decorated bordello-style with lots of Old West decor and red velvet. Flagstaff is a great town for beer, with several breweries and multi-tap bars. Before leaving town, we had a delicious breakfast at La Bellavia, just a few blocks past the train tracks from downtown. Fried catfish, very good and strong coffee, and breakfast potatoes that weren't mushy or boring.

    Anywhere in New Mexico, I would recommend Blake's Lotaburger for green chile cheeseburgers. An old favorite.

    I won't comment on L.A. because you are already in good hands. Excellent Earthworks itinerary! I may use it as a template for future trips.

    Safe travels,
    Erin
  • Post #20 - November 10th, 2009, 11:26 pm
    Post #20 - November 10th, 2009, 11:26 pm Post #20 - November 10th, 2009, 11:26 pm
    Finally reporting back on this epic trip. The focus of this graduate school-organized trip was touring "earth work" land art sculpture and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see monumental and historically significant works of American art. I personally felt that the landscape was the star of the show and for many of these artists, framing these desolate, breathtaking scenes was as much a part of the work as the sculptures themselves. Fortunately, our group of 11 was game to let me "curate" much of the eating itinerary. Sure there were many moments of "just getting there" with trisquits, almonds, and oj for lunch or the occasional abysmal premade sandwich, but we were able to explore some highlights of the cuisine of the southwest. Many of the stops in the more remote regions were simple roadside joints, the only ones in town, some of which I never caught the names of. Los Angeles was an obvious highlight, one of the great American food cities, the scope of which rivals our own. So here are the the highlights of 12 days and 3200+ miles on the road from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles to Marfa, TX with many stops in between. I am skipping out on crappy dark lit restaurant photography, since I'm limited to a flashless, zoomless camera phone these days. Sorry for the inconsistent photography, one of these days I will have a real camera again!

    Day one included the Bonneville Salt Flats outside of Salt Lake City and a night at the Center for Land Use and Interpretation in Wendover, UT.

    Day two included a visit to Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty
    Image.
    The Great Salt Lake is an alien landscape that is full of mystery.

    Our first real culinary conquest went down at the highly lauded Red Iguana in Salt Lake City.
    Image
    Though ravenous to enjoy most any real food at this point, the Red Iguana truly lived up to its reputation. Table salsa was thin and tomato based (read: gringo) but packed some heat and a garlicky bite as well. I tried bites here and there of a shrimp dish and carne asada, all solid, but the moles were sensational main event. I've enjoyed a share of Bahena and Bayless and have been fortunate enough to have five of the Oaxacan moles under my belt from my travels there. All said, Red Iguana served some of the best I've had. The moles were plated more traditionally with rice and tortillas, rather than the mashed potatoes served at more upscale joints in these parts. Some were paired with traditional proteins like turkey for their poblano, while some had haughtier options like grilled pork loin for the coloradito (my entree). I like a good home-style, coarser textured mole like some I've had in Mexico and the renditions by Diana Kennedy that I follow in my home kitchen. However, the sauces here were more refined with the multiplicity of complex flavors carried by a lusciously smooth consistency. And they had definitive chile burn. I was able to sample five of seven moles, but with such a wild ride of spicing combinations I could mostly focus on my own plate, in which buried in smoky, luxurious sauce were lightly charred and succulent pork medallions, a mighty wonderful dish.

    Onward, Vegas- not my kind of town. Ate a microwaved $5 Nathan's "Original" hotdog in a mall-like eatery and then again late night at the Hunter S. Thompsonian Peppermill. We actually ate there twice (it was next to our hotel)- the first time at 2 am after a night trying desperately to find a laid back place to have a drink. To make up for lack in that department I binge ate mediocre fried shrimp, motz. sticks, and the like. Then seven hours later we dined there again at 9 am- the best I could do was eggs and toast on an unhappy belly.

    Onward, LA, tastier pastures.
    Conveniently we were staying at the tidy and recommendable Miyako hotel on east 1st St., directly across the street from Daikokuya Ramen, where I was hoping to enjoy one of my most anticipated meals on the trip. Unfortunately it was a Sunday night when apparently they close after they run out of soup, which happened to be 8:30 the night we got in. No worries, Suehiro was open a few doors down. Salmon skin salad was an unusual one. Can't go wrong with fried fish skin and fat, that component was working its shift. Miso vinaigrette dressing was good, greens fine. Watermelon balls? why not. Raisins? eh. Improperly ripened tomatoes and not- fresh corn threw otherwise fine ingredients out of synch. Too much going on.
    Image
    The ramen was good. Tonkatsu broth was unctuous as it should be. Noodles had good bite. The egg had telltale grey ring around the yolk, which was less than appealing. The pork belly, while enjoyable on a who- doesn't- love- pork- belly level and nicely marinated, a minor quibble would be that it was cut too chunky for an elegant bowl of ramen.
    Image
    In the end it was hard not to enjoy.

    The next day in LA we ventured into Watts for a tour of The Watts House Project. Our guide tipped us off to a neighborhood soul food joint called Jordan's, which was a cultural as well as culinary highlight of the trip for me. The sixty + year old cafeteria is a well kept two story space putting out soul food plates that are- as with the best of this type of chow- prepared so scratch that you feel at home.
    Image
    My dining companion's coveted over (and generously shared) short ribs.
    Image
    Fried pork chops (never had em before, yet set as the archetype- seems like a truly deft hand to maintain a juicy chop with a hard fry)
    Image
    I can be a sides man, so I ordered a full dinner- greens (tender and vinegary, no meat fat to be found, still great), black eyed peas (I can easily be won over by a well cooked bowl o' beans and damn was I), mac n' cheese (soul food style, a little velveeta, a little real cheese, cheese crust bake) and requisite cornbread. Oh and I had the catfish- it had a different breading from the pork chop, cornmeal based that was greaseless and peppery, just right.
    Image
    Image

    And on to the mythical Jitalda for dinner:
    The food was damn spicy, for that I am grateful. It was crowded with people like us. It felt discovered. The food was just okay. I left a bit disappointed. As we left, the owner came running out after us, inexplicably, to let us know that that night they had been understaffed, slammed, and that we should definitely return. It was a touching moment, however mopey I might have felt, and a definite incentive to give this restaurant another chance. I really wonder sometimes what kind of affect the rabid conquest for real- deal food by people like us can actually afflict on the cuisine of places such as these. I can always justify that in harder economic times that it is practically a responsibility to support these types of mom and pop businesses. But what happens when you push them beyond their own means? I'm not sure what the food at Jitalda tasted like in the years before the buzz began (here?) and I am not going to claim that the food has been gentrified or dumbed down. I ordered clams in fresh turmeric curry with tea leaves. The curry itself was a fiery brew- in which I was unable to detect the discernible earthen tang of fresh turmeric, yet nonetheless found complex in its balance of fiery heat with a smoky/herbal contribution from the tea leaves. However, it really sucked that they mistook our order of clams for chewy, pencil eraser-like snails. I may have over-ordered on the curry- the green curry with fish balls and vermicelli was equally as hot spicy as the snails, yet perhaps from my own flavor exhaustion, it lacked a character of its own. My benchmark for this dish would be TAC's version, which has a cooked down coconut milk effect that provides a rich backdrop for a lovely set of spicing. There was a ground meat mixture incorporated into the curry which was different than aforementioned version. The presence of only three fish balls (which were very nicely textured) was also a bummer. The lamb curry from the specials menu was scant on the meat side and in the dry stir fry curry style, loaded with "stir fry" veggies, making its $13.95 price tag seem unreasonable. This dish struck me as a middle ground for American tastes. The salads that my dining partners let me sample were up to snuff- fresh and brightly flavored, the squid in the squid salad much fresher and finely prepared than our snails. So what happens when an off-the-beaten- path restaurant serving a very specific cuisine, most likely to a select population, gets discovered by the new-experience-rabid foodie/web culture? While it is clear that Jitalda is conscientious of the foodie's interest in authentic cuisine in that the spicing is not moderated and the translated menu has been incorporated into the main menu. Yet unfortunately- that night in particular- the food that we ate seemed hurried in its preparation and lacking in ingredient quality. And the fact of the owner apologizing points me to the conclusion that they do not seem to have the infrastructure to keep up with their demands. I guess we are watching our own Sun Wah adapt and survive their own growing pains and it seems like they are proving it possible to bring great, authentic food to the masses. Despite my underwhelming experience, Jitlada seems to have a bright future- the ownership is clearly trying to stay attuned to their customer base and according to their track record, are capable of offering a unique and vibrant cuisine.

    Not hungry enough to eat free tacos at the paradoxical and awesome Gold Room bar in Echo Park, we hit up legendary Tommy's Original on our way home. I have no nostalgia for gloppy, greezy, mystery meat chili of my old man's generation. Not sure if I even ate a good burger buried in all that muck. I did dig the serve-yourself unlimited pepperoncini/sport pepper-hybrids.
    Image
    A face only a mother could love.

    The next morning we had free time from the group and after a hungover jog around downtown, ramen was on my mind again. With Daikokuya opening at 11 am it was perfect timing. The weather was uncharacteristically wet and chilly too, so the warm and welcoming confines of the noodle shop with a cup of green tea could not have made me any happier.
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    Of course this ramen delivered: silky, umami- smacking broth with perfectly seared and luscious chashu. Sproingy egg noodles, perfect. Beansprouts, scallion, and sesame seeds provided textural intrigue. As discussed in the linked thread above, the egg in this ramen set it apart from my previous crack a few nights before and a few addresses over. The yolk was just set, about at a medium boil- melting away in the already rich-as-could-be broth which really took it over the top. The respite and restorative properties of this bowl of soup were the perfect battery charger for the half way point of this trip and provided the culinary highlight of the whole journey for me.
    Image

    Dinner was enjoyed at the board recommended El Parian, which was the only Mexican I was able to hit in two days in LA on such a tight schedule. We arrived about a half and hour before closing, so I knew this would have some effect on the taco meat we were about to dig in on- likely, the end of the night, clear out the hot-holding-unit carne asada. I ordered three tacos, knowing that birria and carnitas hold up better throughout the day, I ordered one of each and rounded out with a carne asada just to see how it stacked up. These were big honkin tacos, about double what one would find in Mexico City and maybe 50% larger than hereabouts. The tortillas, themselves were on the bigger side and seemed better than commercially made, though not warm enough to be soft and pliable. Garnishes of radish, lime, and a side plate of onion and cilantro rounded things out.
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    The birria was the clear standout, most likely since it holds well. Juicy, spicy, and redolent of clove, it was one of the better versions I've had.
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    The carnitas were moist, but maybe too much so, lacking the caramelized edges that are so crucial to the preparation. Carne Asada was obviously a few hours old and while flavorful, was not half as enjoyable as freshly charred steak. Speaking of which, my dining companion smartly ordered, a carne asada plate with a freshly grilled, plate sized steak that was absolutely killer.
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    Oh and I should mention that there were rounds of charred jalapenos, which always make me happy. El Parian did not quite convince me that LA Mexican has an edge on our fair city's, though hitting one taqueria at closing time (I do know better), was not a fair survey. Maybe next time.

    And we were off east into the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. We visited the visionary architect, Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti which was cool, if somewhat creepy in a cultish commune kind of way.
    Image

    Food at the Raven in Prescott, AZ did not do so much for me, I think I had a Sysco quality Cobb Salad. They had a great beer program though and the rooftop patio was quite nice.

    Said roadside cafes, largely serving Mexican fare, were welcoming and charming.
    Image
    I had a pretty damn good plate of my favorite huevos con machacado at this place. Its funny, in many places the only discernible difference between Mexican Mexican and Southwest Mexican was the prevalence of cheddar cheese standing in for queso fresco or chihuahua.

    We spent a night at the cabin at Lightning Field which was my art highlight of the trip, a spiritual communion of desert and sky. The desert light activated the piece just as powerfully as the (absence) of lightning.
    The town of Quemado was a tiny intersection and quaint. I really wished we'd have had time to stop at El Sarape.
    Image

    We spent a quick night in Las Cruces. We were too road worn to drive down to Chope's and instead tried Andele's. Kind of a strip mall Ameri-Mex type of spot which made up for in its quality chow what it lacked in character. I can get into a salsa bar and they had a good range, all with good heat- the verde and salsa de chile arbol standing out. Soy sauce-marinated grilled jalapenos were nice. For my entree I finally got to sample a dish I'd seen on menus all over the southwest, carne adovado, which is much the same dish as carne en chile or versions of puerco guisado. This dish had fork tender stewed chunks of pork in a stand up spicy sauce that must have been mostly red chile. Very nice.

    And then to Marfa.
    We stayed about 15 miles north in Fort Davis and ate at the only open spot, a TexMex joint next to our accommodations (the quirky and comfortable Stone Village Tourist Camp). The Mexican plates ordered by my companions were not looking so hot, but I rather enjoyed my green chile cheeseburger (which I had not had time to try in New Mexico), canned chiles suiting their purpose (a roasted poblano would have been out of the ballpark) and a healthy blanket of chihuahua cheese on a hand formed 1/2 lb. patty was a delicious gutbuster.
    The Chinati Foundation at Marfa proved to be Minimalism's greatest hits and in such an austere environment, work that I once found cold and de-humanized actually resonated in its geometry-meets-nature site specificity.
    Some of Donald Judd's 100 untitled works:
    Image
    We had a rather special final meal at Cochineal in Marfa, an upscale seasonal/local French inflected American restaurant. I had a just dandy Salad Lyonnaise with "Marfa" egg.
    Image
    Lamb chops done medium rare were just right, though I could have ate 3 or 4 more. The accompanying seared bok choy and white beans were simple, unfussy, and to my taste.
    Image
    Dessert was also fabulous- date torte my favorite, sticky sweet, and piping hot and moist in the center.

    Whew, what a trip, a truly memorable experience of art, land, and food.

    Red Iguana
    736 W North Temple
    Salt Lake City, UT 84116
    (801) 322-1489

    Peppermill Inn
    2985 Las Vegas Blvd S
    Las Vegas, NV 89109
    (702) 735-4177

    Suehiro
    337 E 1st St
    Los Angeles, CA 90012-3901
    (213) 626-9132

    Jordan's Cafe
    11332 Wilmington Ave
    Los Angeles, CA 90059-1248
    (323) 566-8629

    Jitalda
    5233 W Sunset Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90027
    (323) 663-3104

    The Gold Room
    1558 W Sunset Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90026-3332
    (213) 482-5259

    Tommy's Original
    2575 Beverly Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90057-1020
    (213) 389-9060

    Daikokuya
    327 E 1st St
    Los Angeles, CA 90012
    (213) 626-1680

    El Parian
    1528 W Pico Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90015-2408
    (213) 386-7361

    Raven Cafe
    142 N Cortez St
    Prescott, AZ 86301-3016
    (928) 717-0009

    El Sarape Cafe
    Hwy 60
    Quemado, NM 87829
    (505) 773-4620

    Andele Restaurante
    2184 Avenue De Mesilla
    Las Cruces, NM 88005
    (505) 526-9631

    Cochineal
    107 1/2 West San Antonio Street
    Marfa, TX 79843
    (432) 729-3300
  • Post #21 - November 11th, 2009, 12:58 am
    Post #21 - November 11th, 2009, 12:58 am Post #21 - November 11th, 2009, 12:58 am
    Thanks, Jefe, for the articulate, thorough and comprehensive post. I cannot express in words how valuable or entertaining entries like these are. I'll be damned grateful for your effort the next time I travel to that part of the country.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    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 #22 - November 11th, 2009, 9:25 am
    Post #22 - November 11th, 2009, 9:25 am Post #22 - November 11th, 2009, 9:25 am
    Jefe-

    Echoing Ronnie's praise, thanks for the great post. And the photos are pretty damn good from a phone!

    -Mary
    -Mary

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