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

Elite Event: Cocktail Party at Mowry & Cotton

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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.

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Cranberry Cheesecake Squares

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INGREDIENTS
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

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DIRECTIONS
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.

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Craft 64

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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.

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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.

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Wood Fired Eggplant Parmesan with Fresh Tomato Sauce

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Sausage Pizza

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Nutella Indulgence

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Tiramisu

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.

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Pie Hole Porter Nitro

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Craft 64 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blackberry Fool

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* – from Food Network

Ingredients
2 pints blackberries (hold 6 blackberries back for topping)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons blackberry liqueur
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
6 ladyfingers
6 sprigs fresh mint, to decorate

Directions
Add the blackberries to a bowl, sprinkle over the granulated sugar and blackberry liqueur and let steep 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the cream and powdered sugar to the bowl of a mixer and whip to soft peaks. Mash the blackberries with a fork, and then fold them into the cream.

Spoon the fool into individual glasses. Crush some ladyfingers on top. Top each with a sprig of mint and a whole blackberry!

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Creamy Blueberry Pie

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Creamy Blueberry Pie

* – from Bunny’s Warm Oven & Allrecipes

Ingredients

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)

For Custard.
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.

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The Baked Bear

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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.

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The Baked Bear Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato