Noble Hops

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I hope everyone is having a wonderful December full of holidays or at least friends and family. The New Year is fast approaching, so make sure to live up the last days of 2013 to their utmost enjoyment factor. For me that has meant staying at home in my pjs for days on end with the occasional social outing. Which also, in turn, means that I don’t really have any more holiday-themed posts. So it’s the normal restaurant and recipe reviews!

 

Noble Hops is usually one of my favorite hangouts on the Northwest side of town. It is a fancy trendy gastropub that is all to rare in this ritzy and retiree-inhabited desert city of mine. I could have sworn I already did a post on it, but having checked my archives I must admit it never happened. Here’s to fixing that problem before the end of the year!

They have delicious beers and pretty darn good appetizers (their entree fare is just a little too pricey for me to have tried without a special occasion.) I have a new and delightful beer everytime I go in and I usually order the Cavatappi Pasta (basically a super decadent and fancy mac and cheese served in a little skillet) and the Pretzel Bread served with a tangy beer sauce. The Greek Fries are delicious too, covered in feta and garlic.

As far as the trendy I was talking about, it has a very minimalistic decoration on the inside, one of the alcoves is lined with shelves of bottles – one row red, another green, another blue, and another yellow. At night there are a bunch of lights strung up around the patio area and a GORGEOUS fire pit in the middle in front of the bar. It is also open up quite late which is another unusual find on this side of town.

This visit, however, I have to say I was less than impressed with what I ordered. It was the Grilled Artichokes “small plate.” I love artichoke hearts and have always been curious to try artichoke leaves. What better place than to try it here at my favorite gastropub? I knew it was fate when I saw the table next to us had ordered the same thing. It looked amazing!

I was so excited (and starving to boot) when it came out. But after the joy of having my plate served I was immediately overwhelmed by confusion. How did I even go about eating this thing? I started picking at it and stabbing it with my fork and knife. I managed to get some leaves of and eagerly lifted them to my mouth only to encounter a tough and chewy husk. Where was the delicious and tender artichoke meat?

I was in the middle of expressing my confusion and frustration only to realize my friend who had ordered the same was already half way through her artichoke half, having no problems.

Unacceptable. I attempted to eat this thin any way I could, but it was unsatisfying and a huge tease. Even the little bit of heart at the bottom wasn’t enough to quell my hunger or anger.

Eventually I gave up. I’m not proud of it, but I couldn’t figure the damn artichoke out and the little bit of sustenance I was scraping (literally, with my teeth) off the leaves was not at all what I hoped. In a fit of despair I kindly told the waitress my problems and she amicably took it off my check and offered to get me something else. I was too frustrated and just wanted to focus on the plate of fries we were sharing and my beer (which kind I can’t remember. Our waitress was awesome and brought me three samples to choose from. All I know is that it was a red ale.)

The evening was still enjoyable. My friends and I laughed and chatted and drank. And I stuffed my face as soon as I got back home. This bad experience will by no means keep me from trying the other delicious sounding options on their menu (I WILL be back) but it will temper my adventures in ordering anything other than artichoke hearts in the future.

Kabuki

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Kabuki is a ritzy sushi restaurant located on the West Wing of the Tempe Marketplace. Well, ritzy for a college student hangout. It is very Asian Chic inside, with red and black color scheme and minimalist kabuki mask and flower decorations.

Inside the lights are low and the red lampshades cast an aura of Feudal Japan and the Kabuki theater across everyone’s face.

It’s quite fun for a group outing and can equally be a nice place for a date!

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The food selection is pretty diverse. There is a large offering  of appetizers and most any kind of sushi your heart could desire. I also discovered a page that lists some soups and rice dishes.

In my personal experience here, the food is alright. It looks and sounds better than it actually is. I once ordered the dragon roll and it came out with seaweed shaping a dragon head! It was so much fun. But the flavors were mellow and it just didn’t leave a tasty memory.

This time I decided to try something besides sushi and ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen. It came with a side of soup or salad. Having my main course be soup I opted for the salad. As is common at Asian themed restaurants the dressing on the salad was a delightfully pungent ginger dressing. It always amazes me how it can transform a simple bowl of lettuce leaves into a delicious salad.

After the appetizer, my ramen came out. It smelled great and was a decent size (though I’ve had more for a lesser price). The seaweed was nice and tender, the bean sprouts crisp, there was some corn but it mostly sank to the bottom, and the noodles were a nice chewy texture. The broth itself, however, failed to impress. It was alright. Spicy, a hint of miso. But it simply failed to wow. I honestly enjoyed the salad dressing more than the soup.

I think this is going to be one of my last visits to Kabuki. For the price range (a check on the low end usually being $15-20 per person), the quality of food does not match. I can get a much more flavorful bowl of ramen at Republic Ramen (big enough to split with two people) for less than $8.

If you are in the area and have the money to spend, it is a decent restaurant. But I am going to start exploring the other options at Tempe Marketplace from now on.

Holiday Sugar and Gingerbread Cookies with Eggless Icing

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In a sudden bought of Holiday Spirit, my cousins and I got together to make Christmas cookies!

I don’t normally do cut-outs, they take too much time and effort. Plus it is amazingly hard to find a delicious sugar cookie recipe. But for the sake of my 6 year old cousin, I scoured the internet for a couple of cut-out recipes.

I found and prepared this gingerbread recipe and this sugar cookie recipe. For the gingerbread, I followed it to a T. The only hitch being not being able to find pre-ground cloves. So I had to grind my own in a bullet.

The sugar cookie recipe I modified according to the comments. Using only 3 cups of flour and a teaspoon of vanilla.

I chilled the sugar cookie dough and let the sugar cookie dough sit out. Until it was time to roll and cut.

 

 

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Rolling out the dough was such a pain. I don’t know why the gingerbread said to leave the dough at room temperature. It was much too soft and sticky. I think chilling it would have been much better.

The sugar cookie dough was chilled and very easy to deal with, until it got warmed up by hands and oven heat.

It was sort of fun at first. Though dealing with a rambunctious 6 year old does wear the nerves.

 

 

 

 

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I  must say that frosting the cookies was the best part. I found and prepared this frosting with a few modifications. I used cream cheese, instead of butter, and didn’t have any vanilla so just left it out completely. The milk I added till the consistency I wanted, I didn’t even bother with measurements.

The frosting ended up a thick liquid that I partitioned into 7 parts and let my baby cousin add color to. So with yellow, purple, pink, green, blue, aqua, and orange we spread the icing on the cookies and let the sprinkles flow.

After drying for a few hours the cookies were perfectly prepared for stacking and storing.  The gingerbread cookies were quite delicious! And a perfect texture. The sugar cookies were a bit bland (next time I will add some cinnamon and nutmeg to the dough.) They were nice a fluffy though. I really enjoyed the texture of these sugar cookies. Not overly crunchy, but held their shape nicely!

I won’t be making cut-outs for a long while, but it was a fun adventure and a great memory!

Pomegranate

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Right on the Ahwatukee and Chandler “city” border is a hippie, eclectic vegan restaurant called Pomegranate.

My friends had discovered this gem and were constantly raving about their favorite order – the Açaii Berry Parfait. So when I was in town they took me to it, twice in fact.

And the parfait was delicious. UTTERLY AMAZING. A concoction of açaii berry flavored cashew cream yogurt layered with house granola, crisp green apples, coconut shreds, and dried fruit presented in a kitschy mason jar.

It has charm, pizzazz and flavor! I actually could barely finish this monster of a nutritious parfait.

The rest of the menu, however, fizzled for me. It was full of vegan meat substitute dishes. When I go to a vegetarian or vegan restaurant I look for creative and inspiring VEGETABLE and FRUIT BASED dishes. Not normal dishes with tofu bacon, or “chicken” components. It feels like cheating, plus these vegan alternatives are always a disappointment in texture and taste.

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The restaurant itself is adorable. Extremely colorful and full of recycled decorations. Every table set is different and each wall is covered in some mosaic or another.

It should be too much, but they were able to pull off this vibrant and noisy color scheme into a coherent chic hippie feel.

Once over the unexpected exposure to all the colors, your eye is immediately drawn to the baked goods display. It is full of gluten free, vegan, and raw goodies for the hippie of all dietary restrictions.

Next, once you sit down you can look over the counter and watch as the waiters make smoothies by pulverizing and juicing a selection of herbs, grasses, vegetables, and citrus. It is fascinating and inspires the curiousity. I didn’t have the guts to try one of their healthy beverages this last time. But next time I will for sure. Nothing like a bright green smoothie to jump start your inner workings!

 

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Conclusion: I really enjoyed the parfait and will definitely be going there for more of it next time I am in the area. This restaurant also offers a great option for those who choose not to eat meat to any degree, as well as offers options for those who must dine gluten free. It is a food stop that offers something for everyone and I recommend that you stop by and give it a try.

Pho 68

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Like every Lee Lee’s Market I’ve been to (that would be two) there has to be a Pho place and a Boba tea shop right next to it. In the case of Tucson and Chandler, the set up is nearly identical. Connected to the left of Lee Lee’s is the Vietnamese restaurant and in the adjacent L connected building to the left of the Pho place is a Boba shop.

It’s eerie how much the same they are.

But. The pho bowls at Pho 68 are absolutely delicious. A close second to Un-Pho-Gettable (which has the best vegetable pho soup I have yet to try), the beef pho here is delicious. The broth is rich and full bodied, the noodles are cooked perfectly in the boiling broth and the meat is quite good too. Though I can’t say I’m a fan of the meatballs, the beef slices are very tender and delicious.

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There is a perfect portioning of bean sprouts, thai basil, lime and jalapeños to add into the soup. I also like how they serve you a preportioned side of sauce (usually sriracha and hoison sauce) that you can either use as is or add more of either condiment.

 

 

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Snowy Day Trip to Prescott

 

 

 

 

 

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Took a day trip with my dad and best friend up to the snowy North of Arizona.

Prescott, AZ was the once-capitol of Arizona. It has a little bit of the historic West feel on Whiskey Road. Full of saloons and pubs. But, really, now it is just a trendy get away. It is full of little boutiques, antique shops, art galleries and jewelry stores.

It was fun to walk around. And even more fun to get a taste of winter with the snow. There were kids (of all ages) making snowmen in the town square in front of the court house.

I’m sure during the warmer months there is a bit more to explore. And the views must be wonderful. But since it was a freezing 40 degrees we only wandered around for a couple of hours.

We had a nice little lunch at the Devil’s Pantry, but it wasn’t anything special. There was a dessert that I will try if I ever visit again though. It’s cookie dough deep fried in a funnel cake batter and smothered in more decadent dessert type toppings. It was just too rich this visit, but I am going to dream about tasting that diabetes in a bowl.

Elliot’s on Congress and The HUB

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Pictured here are the pulled duck street tacos from Elliot’s on Congress. This is a neat little bar in the downtown area.

My friends and I went for happy hour where they feature great drink prices (though, honestly, their full price specialty drinks are no more than 8 dollars anyway.) It is a SERIOUSLY good deal!

I enjoyed a glass of draft Shock Top for $2 and a plate of the Street Tacos for $7. A filling and fun evening for $10 total.

The tacos were really unique and cool. I’ve never seen of this fusion before and really enjoyed the pulled duck. The tortillas were a mix of corn and flour as well, providing a nice mild flour flavor with the sturdiness of your average corn tortilla.

I will admit it was a smaller portion than I was bargaining for. Especially when compared to the huge plate of burger and fries that my friends both enjoyed.

The fries there, by the way, are truly a unique experience. They are the thinnest shoe string fries I’ve ever come across and drizzled in a light garlic sauce. They are even more addicting than normal fries because you feel like you have to eat three of them to measure up to an average fry. I don’t mean this in a bad way! It’s just different. A true SNACK food.

The decor is very trendy to boot. It’s a neat hip place that you should definitely check out!

And of course, end the evening with a visit to the HUB for some original and amazing ice cream flavours (like brandied cherry goat cheese ice cream or chocolate stout ice cream.) A very gourmet dessert for a decent price!