La Bocca Urban Pizzeria and Wine Bar

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Here is a throwback post. I suppose I’ll post this on Thursday to be in proper internet form. #tbt

La Bocca was one of my favorite spots to eat and chill in Tempe. It was on the trendy part of Mill, just North of campus, accesible and fun. It had a wonderful half priced happy hour from around noon to about 4pm.

After class I’d meet up with friends for some wine and apps. The bruschetta choices are to die for. There is both savory and sweet options. My friends and I would often choose three savory and one of the two dessert choices (you pick four per plank). The smoked salmon is our favorite, but is seasonal – if you see it, get it! But I can’t say I’ve ever been disappointed by the options, so feel free to pick as you please!

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The sandwich combos are quite delicious as well. Pictured above is the fig and turkey sandwich. It is absolutely delightful and bursting with flavour. And come with house fried potato chips seasoned with fresh herbs and sea salt. I think I enjoyed them more than the sandwich itself!

 

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Cupz n Crepes

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Cupz n Crepes is an adorable little local restaurant in ‘Tukee just a few blocks West from the I10 on Ray. I went to  meet a friend here for breakfast while visiting The Valley and am I in love! It is the best crèpe place I’ve been to in the states.

It is a seat-yourself diner, and the wait staff were pretty friendly when we went. Our order even got lost but they were quick to fix that once we brought their attention to the wait. The decor is classy cutesy with mirrors and shelves full of porcelain vases and flowers. And on the walk to the bathroom hallway you can see the cook making the crèpes the traditional way – on a giant circular grill with the little wooden spreader.

The crèpe selection is widely varied – veggies, cheese, meats, and the dessert options are plentiful!! And the price is oh so right. Most of the crèpes run in the 5-7 dollar range. A SUPER AFFORDABLE BREAKFAST OR LUNCH, non? I ordered the above pictured strawberry, honey and almond dessert crèpe.

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The crèpe itself was slightly crispy but still retained it’s chewiness. The strawberries were fresh, the honey was not overly sweet and the almonds added a great crunch and nuttiness. My friend ordered a make your own with avocado and jack cheese. It was delicious as well. The cheese was some of the freshest and creamiest I’ve ever tasted.

I was so pleased with this restaurant. I highly highly recommend it. Go and support this local place. Order a crèpe, order a café. Sit and chill for a bit à la vie française!

Phoenix Adventures

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So I went up to Phoenix this last weekend. Again. Can’t resist the delicious food…erm I mean amazing friends that are in the city just North of me. While up there I got to see some friends who have gone off to the East Coast for grad school, hike South Mountain and try new restaurants!

This was actually my first time hiking in Phoenix. Though I’ve meant to explore the trails for the last several years it just never worked out timing wise. XP But I have done it now! And it was… interesting. Much different from the hiking trails I’m used to in Tucson.  First of all, South Mountain is more of a large hill than an actual mountain. I could easily reach the peak of this “mountain” whereas I’ve never been able to scale to the top of any mountain in Tucson (without the aid of a car.) The first third of the path was paved. Which is abominable. If you want somewhere paved go to a PARK not a hiking trail, jeesh. After that it starts to get rather steep and rocky, but the trail is so short it isn’t terribly exhausting. I only needed one rest and then just some breathers.

The interesting bit about the South Mountain trails is that there is actually one trail that is 14 miles long!!! It goes around the range in a mostly flat and even trail. That just happens to be on the very outside middle part of a small mountain.
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After hiking we went to SUSHI. Our usual place is Teharu the revolving sushi bar but we decided to mix it up and try someplace new. Mido Sushi on Ray and Kyrene. We got there for happy hour and BOY was it DELICIOUS.  We all got full on under $10. On fresh and good quality sushi! Elizabeth and I split four rolls – to have the greatest variety of flavours. There was a spicy tuna, a gyoza roll (a sushi roll with gyoza inside. BRILLIANT!), jalapeño tuna, and the pancho roll (which has shrimp tempura and avocado). They were all delicious. I don’t even care much for shrimp and I loved the pancho roll. Since then one of us has gone back 3 times. I am incredibly jealous and can’t wait to go back up and enjoy the happy hour again.

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Then we had BOBA TEA. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH. I don’t actually care much for traditional boba balls. But I love milk tea, I love mini boba and I love popping boba/fruit caviar. I try a different combination almost everytime I enjoy a tea. This time it was a coconut taro tea (the purple one in the back) with mini bobas (yay Boba Tea House for having mini boba). Taro is such an interesting flavor and I am obsessed with the beautiful color it creates. If you have been wary to try something so exotic, don’t be. It’s a mild flavour, slightly sweet and it tastes… opaque? or ever so slightly chalky? It’s extremely unique. Please, give it a try!

 

 

IMG_2696 (2)And then for dinner one night we tried a local Italian place – Floridino’s. I split a steak sandwich and was pleased at the dinner. The steak was not dry, the peppers were still crisp and not overcooked, the bread was nice and toasty… but it lacked something. It was dry (and even marinara sauce wouldn’t have added much to it) and not very flavourful. It tasted like something I would throw together from  leftovers, honestly. The pasta salad was rather nice… again extremely simple to the point of being bland. It was pasta and oil and vinegar and some herbs. I won’t be going back there again. The price just does not reflect the quality of the food. If it were 5 dollars for one of their sandwiches I’d be game, but even 7.50 seemed excessive for something so terribly bland. I also have to admit that I was thoroughly let down by the lack of veggie dishes. I just was not in the mood for something entirely bread and sauce and cheese. I have come to expect something more layered. Is it really so much to add some broccoli or zucchini to the pasta at least? GIMME VARIETY and nutrients.

However their calzones did look promising. They are ginormous and worth two meals. If I do ever end up there again, that is what I’ll try.

And so we have our third post of the new year. I’ll try to add some more life anecdotes with my recipes and reviews. If you have any comments on what you’d like me to make, bake or suggestions of restaurants in Tucson or Phoenix areas, lemme know!

Hope your new year is going splendidly!

 

Chino Bandido

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Confused by the meal pictured above? You have every right to be. It’s a mix of Chinese and Mexican food! There are a couple locations throughout the “Greater Phoenix Area” (put in quotations because everyone not born in Phoenix knows that Chandler, Scottsdale, Tempe, etc don’t really matter. It’s all Phoenix to us!) and it is quite an interesting experience.

Chino Bandido’s most popular plate option is the combo: you get two meats (burrito or quesadilla style), rice, and beans for about $7. On top of that you can choose refried beans, spicy black beans (what I had, try them. They are delicious), rice, or a variety of fried rices.

What I ordered was suggested by the delightful and knowledgable waitress Fizz (at the Tempe location. GO VISIT AND SAY HI!). She recommended the Emerald Chicken quesadilla with the Jade Red Chicken, white rice (because fried was a dollar extra and I’m cheap) and the spicy black beans. It was delicious. The Emerald chicken is a ginger and scallion seasoned chicken and it was delicious covered in cheese and sandwiched in between crispy quesadillas. I also suggest you spread some black beans on with every bite, it gives it a lovely kick. The Jade Red Chicken is sort of a Sweet and Sour style chicken and it was tender and reminiscent of classic American style Chinese food. All in all I enjoyed the meal, and I had leftovers, too!

The best part, however, may be the fresh daily baked Snickerdoodle cookie that comes with the meal. It’s soft and chewy and honestly one of the best snickerdoodles I have tried. Doesn’t happen often at quick service restaurants, but here it is amazing. They make the dough and bake the cookies on site so it’s fresh and tasty!

If you need more reason to go check out this unusual food combo here is a picture of their mascot. He is adorable (if a bit racist):

 

Now go! Enjoy and marvel at the taste sensation! And again, if you go to the Tempe location say Hi to Fizz!

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.

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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