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.
I have so many memories here at the Phoenician going back to high school days. They have been going through some renovations and Mowry & Cotton is their fancy new casual restaurant geared to draw in both visitors and locals. This was one of those fun dress-up Yelp events that incorporated the beautiful views of the Phoenician resort. Mowry & Cotton has a large open patio with amazing décor (the growler wall was a nice touch). We were given the story behind this place from the GM. He mentioned that it is named after George Mowry and James Cotton – two businessmen who opened one of Phoenix’s earliest drinking establishments. We were treated with their signature drink (called the Washington & 1st) from their awesome bartender who worked his butt off for us. It was a blend of commerce gin, St Germain elderflower, blackberry, lime & bitters. I got so caught up with my drinks and the conversation at my table that I forgot to check out the food samples they prepared for us. The seafood was gone when I got there, but I did get to try some of their flatbread pizza. The Wild Mushroom and the Chicken Pesto were both pretty flavorful. But I didn’t miss out on desserts. They had these awesome Lemon Meringue, S’Mores and a Peanut Butter Bar samples that capped off the night. I enjoyed mixing it up with some long time Elites and enjoyed meeting some of the new ones. The best part was the awesome gifts Mowry & Cotton gave us – a choice of a cutting board, a branding iron or an apron. All three were pretty killer. Thanks to our Yelp staff for always being amazing and treating us Elites to a fun night. Read my full post about Mowry & Cotton here.
2 cups (5 to 6 ounces) crushed chocolate graham crackers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 packages (1 pound total) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons orange or lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups (about 8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon peel
Line a 9-inch square baking dish with a 14-inch-long piece of foil or parchment paper and grease the foil. In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, the orange juice and vanilla at medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the heavy cream and mix at low speed until blended, then beat at medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the crumbs. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water, the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and the cranberries to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice. Lower the heat and simmer until the cranberries begin to pop, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a small bowl and stir in the orange peel. Refrigerate while the cheesecake is chilling.
Holding the ends of the foil, pull the cheesecake out of the pan. Cut into 9 squares. Spoon the cranberry sauce onto the cheesecake.
I finished up the May version of Arizona Restaurant Week at Craft 64. We got a big group of us together to enjoy a fun food night out in Old Town Scottsdale. Main St is home to many great patio restaurants (and art galleries) and Craft 64 is one of the newest additions to the area. They have delicious artisanal wood-fired pizzas along with a great selection of craft beers and wine. Started by a partnership of experienced local owners, Craft 64 has become a local favorite. They make their own mozzarella from scratch everyday and use organic flour and other products from local farmers. The have over 30 local beers on tap and a great outdoor patio area with strings of lights for decoration. We had a wonderful time and received great service from our waiter who educated us on some of their beers.
They had a great selection to choose from for Restaurant Week. I went with the Wood Fired Eggplant Parmesan, their delicious Sausage Pizza and the yummy Nutella Indulgence for dessert. Because we had a large party, we ended up mixing and matching our dishes so we could get a sample of everything.
Wood Fired Eggplant Parmesan with Fresh Tomato Sauce
My waiter recommended the Pie Hole Porter Nitro – a local beer from Historic Brewery Company out of Flagstaff. What a great tasting beer! I have really been enjoying learning about and tasting new craft beers. Arizona has been coming out with nice local beers from different regions all over the state.
3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen ( if frozen thaw and drain well)
1( 9) inch deep dish pie crust (or a regular 9 inch crust)
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sour cream
For Streusel topping
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the blueberries in the pastry shell and set aside.
Combine 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and salt. Add eggs and sour cream, stirring until blended. Pour the sour cream custard over the blueberries.
In another bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Cut in the butter with pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the topping over the sour cream mixture and berries in the pie shell.
Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.
Cover the pie with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking to keep the crust from browning to much.
I’m in San Diego for the evening and I spot this really cool concept while walking around Pacific Beach – The Baked Bear. This place was birth in San Diego by a couple of childhood friends who left their careers to start this amazing place. Basically they make ice cream sandwiches using original-made ice cream that is held together by two fresh-baked cookies. The cool thing is that you can pick any flavor ice cream and any combination of cookies that you want. I got the macadamia nut and pumpkin spice cookies with praline ice cream. It was the perfect treat for me to devour as I strolled the boardwalk along the beach.
From wikipedia –A Trifle is a dessert dish made from thick (or often solidified) custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice or jelly, and whipped cream. These ingredients are usually arranged in layers.
I made this Pumpkin Peach and Apple Trifle – it was my first trifle. I got this huge bowl as a gift last summer and have been wanting to use it for some time. I had fun putting this together and it was a huge hit at my Halloween Harvest party I went to.
It was my turn to host my missional community from church. I love hosting dinner parties and I thought I’d look up a couple of recipes from some chefs that have inspired my cooking over the years. I made chicken parmesan with steamed asparagus and garlic bread. I also made a cherry clafouti and zucchini bread for dessert. Everything turned out great (aside from slicing my finger and getting stitches) and I ended up having 12 people over.
This is a simple marinara recipe I like to use from Giada De Laurentiis’ book. It’s cool because you can use it as it is or add other ingredients to make other types of sauces like vodka sauce. I used it for my chicken parmesan.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)
For Julia Child’s 100th birthday celebration this week, I thought I tackle one of her French desserts. This is her Cherry Clafouti recipe.
1 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 cups cherries, pitted
powdered sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a blender, combine the milk, 1/3 cup sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour, and blend.
Lightly butter an 8-cup baking dish, and pour a 1/4-inch layer of the blended mixture over the bottom. Set remaining batter aside.
Place dish into the oven for about 7-10 minutes, until a film of batter sets in the pan but the mixture is not baked through. Remove from oven (but don’t turn the oven off, yet).
Distribute the pitted cherries over the set batter in the pan, then sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Pour the remaining batter over the cherries and sugar.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until the clafouti is puffed and brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
My friend Brittany has a passion for vegan food. I love trying new foods and looking at her pictures of her vegan meals that she likes to post got me intrigued to have lunch with her. She took me to 24 Carrots, a natural cafe and juice bar in Chandler. They use fresh, organic, natural products from the local farming community. It’s a neat little place with some fun decorations. Brittany got the Harvest Veggie Quesadilla and I got the Stuffed Zucchini. Wow… I was impressed with my meal and I’m sold on incorporating more vegan dishes in my diet. Afterwards, we got some yummy desserts. They bake their desserts without any artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colorings and excess fats. I got the cherry & almond cake with fresh blueberry syrup. Seriously.. amazing!