Topo

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The newest edition to downtown Gilbert is nicely squeezed in between Bergie’s Coffee and Joe’s Real BBQ. Topo is a small walk-up food stall with a huge gopher on the roof (Topo means gopher or mole in Spanish). Leave it to owner Joe Johnston to add a little something fun, unique but weird to the growing downtown Gilbert area. This place draws you in like many of the weird roadside attractions do if you were driving on the Route 66 in northern AZ. What I like most is its very simple menu – burrito, beverage and ice cream. What else do you need in life? You can order a regular burrito (chicken or pork) or have it loco style with elote corn, fritos chips, tomatillo cream and hot sauce. They offer a small bowl of elote for a side. For dessert, they have vanilla or prickly pear ice cream cones that you can dip in chocolate, lime or prickly pear. That’s it – very quick and simple. I came on opening day and it took about 15 min waiting in line to order my food (I’m sure that will decrease over time). Food came out in a few minutes. Joe Johnston greeted people in line and offered us gopher stickers. The kitchen space is small and systems-based. I noticed they weigh every burrito that is made before they serve them. There are a few tables off to the side, but most people use the larger picnic tables next to Joe’s BBQ. This place is unique and fun and opens late. They should get quite a good crowd that just want a quick bite to eat.

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Joe Johnston greets guests on opening day

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Topo Loco

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Elote

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Lime Dipped Pickly Pear Ice Cream

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Prickly Pear Dipped Vanilla Ice Cream

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Topo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Louisiana Fried Chicken & Wings

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So I believe Louisiana Fried Chicken has opened a location here in AZ on a couple of occasions. I remember reviewing one awhile back in Phoenix during my Urbanspoon days and then it abruptly closed without any notice when I tried to return. So the Chandler area is now their newest experiment. Louisiana Fried Chicken & Wings actually came out of LA in the 70’s and has over a hundred locations in the US. The Louisiana name comes from how the chicken is cooked –  Cajun battered and deep fried. They also have fried shrimp, chicken tenders and fish. There are several entree combinations to choose from with or without sides and whatever quantity you want. Side items include mashed potatoes, okra, red beans & rice and coleslaw. There’s a bit of an Asian influence with rice combinations and egg rolls. And they have gumbo too! The family pack combos must be popular because there were several people waiting in the lobby for large to-go orders. The restaurant itself isn’t very large but pretty clean. I thought the chicken was pretty tasty with just a hint of spice and a nice soft crunch to it. They have bottles of hot sauce available that you can spice your chicken up with. Overall Louisiana Chicken is a nice fast casual chain if you are looking for a quick affordable bite of some Cajun chicken (a 3 piece combo will run you about $8). It will be interesting to see how they do in Chandler across from Food City. Btw… they have a couple different slices of pie for dessert and boba tea.

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3 Piece Combo

Louisiana Fried Chicken & Wings Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Crêpe Club

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When I went to ASU back in the day, there was mostly fast food on campus. It’s nice to see some delicious eats coming to campus. Yelp gave us Elites a chance to dine at one of The Crepe Club’s locations. I love the story of this place about three brothers coming from Syria to attend ASU. They got their degrees and then started up a crepe cart on campus. It became so popular that they opened their own restaurant at the Biltmore. Recently they opened up this permanent location right next to Old Main on ASU campus. I got two mini crepes so I could try both a sweet and savory one. The creme de lemon was nice and warm and I enjoyed the delicious lemon aftertaste. The chicken florentine is packed with flavor – grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms, spinach and mozzarella cheese. Super good! This location has a walk up window with an outdoor patio area with tables and shading. I got a nice visit from Maria the operations manager who offered me a yummy macaroon. The Crepe Club is a nice addition to my old digs.

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Chicken Florentine Crepe

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The Crêpe Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Cranberry Quinoa

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • CHICKEN:
  • 3/4 cup dry sherry  
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large tart apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add quinoa and thyme. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat; fluff with a fork. Discard thyme.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add green onions and celery; cook and stir until tender. Add cooked quinoa. Stir in the dried fruits, lemon juice, lemon peel and salt.
  3. In a large saucepan, mix the first six chicken ingredients until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until slightly thickened. Add the apple, cranberries and walnuts. Stir in preserves and butter until melted.
  4. Cut a pocket horizontally in the thickest part of each chicken breast. Fill each with 2-3 tablespoons quinoa mixture; secure with toothpicks. Place remaining quinoa mixture in a greased 1-qt. baking dish; cover with foil. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Carefully brown stuffed chicken on both sides. Transfer to a greased 13×9-in. baking dish; pour apple mixture over top.
  5. Bake chicken and quinoa, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in chicken reads 170° and quinoa is heated through. Serve chicken with quinoa. Discard toothpicks before serving. Yield: 6 servings.

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Great Finds

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My friend and I love looking for good finds at Trader Joe’s. She is the master at coming up with great party snacks from there. Here are a couple of recent items I picked up lately. The first is their pesto and quinoa in a jar. I love putting this on chicken or salads. Quinoa is obviously a big thing these days and I enjoy coming up with new recipes that include it. But to pair it with pesto (one of my favs), I have enjoyed this product. The Kale sprouts have been a great new side item for me. I made them for a friend the other night and we both agreed they are a hit. I’m looking forward to digging up some more extra goodies at the Joe’s.

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Chicken with pesto quinoa and kale sprouts

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Pesto quinoa on salad

 

Lettuce Wraps

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* – from Today 

1 head of sturdy lettuce such as bibb, romaine or iceberg
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds ground turkey or chicken
1 small bell pepper (green, red or any other color you prefer), finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup finely sliced scallions, light green and dark green parts only (from about 2-3 scallions)
Sriracha or other hot sauce for serving

3

1 to 2 days ahead: Prep the lettuce and make the filling

Prep the lettuce: Separate the head of lettuce into individual leaves. Rinse and dry, either with a salad spinner or by hand, using clean kitchen towels or paper towels to pat the leaves dry.

Refrigerate the lettuce leaves until ready to assemble and serve, either inside the salad spinner or between layers of clean, dry kitchen towels or paper towels in an airtight container to wick away excess moisture. (Lettuce leaves can also be stored in individual serving sizes for lunches on the go.)

Cook the meat: Whisk the broth, soy sauce, sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add half the ground meat in handfuls, distributing it in a single layer in the pan. Cook without stirring until the meat starts to brown, then stir and start breaking up the meat into smaller pieces.

When the meat is no longer pink, transfer it to a bowl. Add the remaining oil and meat to the pan and cook in the same manner.

Finish the filling: Return all the meat to the pan and add the bell pepper, carrot, garlic and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.

Whisk in the reserved broth and cook for a few more minutes to thicken the broth into a sauce.

Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions.

Store the filling: Transfer to a lidded container (or multiple containers, if you’re sending the wraps off to school or work for meals) and refrigerate until ready to eat. The cooked filling can be made up to 2 days in advance.

2

Ready to eat? Reheat and serve!

Reheat the meat in a covered skillet over medium-low heat until warmed through, or zap in the microwave in minute-long increments, stirring between each to warm evenly.

Spoon the warmed filling into the lettuce leaves (about 1/3-1/2 cup filling per leaf, depending on the size of your lettuce) and drizzle with Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce, if desired.

Louisiana Fried Chicken

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Greatness is not “WHAT WE HAVE”
Greatness is “WHAT WE MAKE”

Another Soul Food Chain hits the Valley. Louisiana Fried Chicken is a franchise/chain birth out of L.A. with a New Orleans southern influence to their food. I picked up a Groupon to this place and decided to check it out. Soul food is pretty popular these days with restaurants everywhere adding chicken and waffles to their menu. It will be interesting to see how LFC does coming off the heels of Lo-Lo’s which made soul food a hit here in the valley. The fried okra was great and I loved the sweet potato pie. Overall it was a decent experience. (Note – they have a tendency to close at odd times whenever they run out of chicken or have A/C issues. I tried to return for a second visit and it looks like they have closed permanently. Oh well.)

  • – from their website

Joe Dion was the founder of Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken. Dion came to Los Angeles from Michigan in 1957 with nothing in pockets and inclination to work in restaurants. After a month in his garage with a 30 pound fryer, experimenting with a recipe he says he obtained from New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme, he arrived at a product chicken in a Zesty Cajun batter fried to a soft crunch and finished with a slight, spicy heat.

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3 Piece Pac (with Fried Okra and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy)

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Sweet Potato Pie

Louisiana Fried Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato