First, to give this perspective: I do not ordinarily salt my food. Really.
Now, understand, I am ADDICTED to rosemary salt ordered from Eatwell Farm.
My "friend" brought some of this rosemary salt as a souvenir for me from her trip to San Francisco. I proceeded to apply it to my popcorn nightly. It's absolutely AWESOME!
I ordered a case. (I'm totally not kidding. I wish I was! $130+ of SALT!!) I am now pushing it on others like crack! "Gifting" it to Phoenix area chefs and food artisans -- I've challenged a dude to use it in a creme brule. I have blown through half the case that came around December! I am out of control!
And, the customer service was lovely. First, my email asking where I could buy this salt online. I was sent a Google link. Second, the hand written note that accompanied my case of salt, with a free sample of the tomato salt. Thank GOODNESS I don't like it as much. Seriously! I'm captivated by this SALT! WTF!?!
I don't buy bread at the grocery store any more. I don't have to. This weekend I bought a package of sandwich thins, a package of "fill-ems" (like sandwich thins but hot dog bun shaped instead) and a package of bagel thins for $4.59 including tax. And, I got stamps towards a freebie when I fill my card. Here's the big deal: EACH of those items would retail for $3.50 at the grocery store.WHY did I wait so long to come here? It's the best thing since sliced bread! (Sorry, couldn't resist… En savoir plus
Today, I stood in the shade of a tree on a street corner waiting for the Terra Verde guy to come hook me up with a fix of the Apricot Drizzle. There's nothing like this stuff! I've built a recipe around it which I plan to make for an upcoming brunch and I can't make it to the public market in time to replenish my stash. Besides, they haven't been at the Phoenix Market in a while (although, I hear they will return soon and can still be found the Scottsdale one). Fortunately, they've generously met me on a street corner so I could "get the goods" on more than one occasion!
I "discovered" Terra Verde products when my taste buds were overcome by the delicious apricot spread served with my toast at Matt's Big Breakfast. I could not get enough! After breakfast, I rushed across the street to the Downtown Phoenix Public Market (fortunately, it was a Saturday) to pick up my own supply.
Terra Verde Farms is a small, family-owned and operated specialty food business. Items are handmade in small batches from family recipes and there are no artificial flavorings, preservatives or colors.
Without a doubt, the emphasis is on the flavor in their products. The apricot "preserves" are labeled as apricot "drizzle" and that's a fitting description because the product doesn't gel quite like a jam or jelly. But the flavor! OMG!!
Other TVF products I've enjoyed include: peach-pear-apple hot sauce, which is great for a pork tenderloin and the strawberry lavender preserves (the lavender is very subtle).
I've seen the chile and tomato products for sale at Ticoz, but their preserves and marmalades are tough to come by, outside of public markets and their online store. If you spy some, grab 'em!!
My sister and I gave a Whisked Away cooking class as a gift to our mom, step-mom and 4 stepsisters for Christmas. On December 26, Maggie opened her home (and business) to us and taught us to cook with pumpkin! There were chairs set up in classroom style on the living room side of the kitchen pass-through with vintage fabric aprons draped over the back. We brought a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy and poured ourselves a glass as we took our seats. Maggie introduced herself, and her mother who was visiting for the holidays, and got to work reviewing the recipes and offering up tips for cutting onions, getting the smell of garlic off your hands and answering questions along the way.
When it was our turn, we donned our aprons and entered the kitchen. While it did strike me as unusual to have a cooking class in someone's home, I must say, the familiarity of a homey kitchen contributed to a more relaxed and paced learning and cooking experience (I've taken classes in kitchen shops, etc. before and it had a more scattered and sterile feel). That said, the fact that I was surrounded by family -- some of the most wonderful women I know -- probably also added to that affect.
With our menu complete: Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup, Green Beans with Pepitas, Pan-Seared Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto and Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce, we reclaimed and refilled our wine glasses (they weren't allowed in the kitchen) and took a seat at the family's dinning room table. We enjoyed the fruits of our labor and each other's company while Maggie and her mom did the dishes.
Let me tell you: It was a GREAT gift idea! Everyone loved it and there's talk of making it an annual event.
I use Arizona Bread Company's Chili Cheese bread to make THE BEST savory french toast EVER! I use salsa for the "syrup" and sprinkle some roasted pumpkin seeds on top for a crunch. It's delicious!!
I am NOT a morning person, but for a cheap dinner with some Yelp pals and a week's worth of produce... a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!
The website is really difficult to understand but basically, you click on the words Log-In on the masthead of the site to place an order. When you place your order you can get your $15 basket and add "packs" (prices vary) like a tropical pack (things like pineapple mango, lime and coconut), guacamole (things like avocado, cilantro, jalapeno and onion) pack or Italian pack (things like garlic, onions, tomato and eggplant) or breads. Orders need to be in by 10 p.m. on Wednesday night.
There are loads of locations to pick up your basket, I try to pick the closest location that allows me to sleep a little more. (I'm not AWAKE at 7 on most weekdays, let alone AT my destination!) Pick up times are FIRM, so if you are supposed to be there at 7, be there at 7 - as soon as the baskets are gone they're out of there!
You need to bring your own containers to take the items home. While the baskets are rationed into laundry baskets, you don't get to take the basket with you. A couple of reusable grocery bags will do.
Here's an inventory of what we got one week (we added the tropical pack for $7.50):
10 lb bag of russet potatoes
1 head romaine
3 stalks of broccoli
small bag of brussel sprouts
4 yellow onions
1 bag of grapes
a pygmy pineapple (seriously, it's the smallest pineapple I've ever seen!)
There is no way I could eat this much fruit and vegetables on my own (5-a-day be damned!) but Amy D., AMber W. and I have started a tradition of cooking dinner with items in the basket and sharing a meal while we split our bounty. It's been a great way to end the weekend!
Just got in from a great evening at Grinders! Who knew you could hear amazing blues music for free -- in Sunnyslope of all places -- on the 2nd Saturday of each month!? I did, actually. The real question is why don't I go every month!?
So, now I'm hopped up on a dirty chai latte and I must share the details about this neighborhood gem. Truly, the Valley's BEST neighborhood coffee shop! For a number of reasons...
1.) Grinders is a place where everyone feels welcome from high school kids to retirees taking advantage of the free wi-fi.
2.) They roast their OWN beans. That's right. They wheel a roaster out onto the same concrete slab that becomes the stage for Valley blues legends like Ronnie Whitehead on 2nd Saturdays and roast the beans for themselves!! I find their coffees to be pretty earthy and smooth.
3.) The fudgy pecan brownies are rich and chocolaty. The scones are biscuit-like and just the right amount of barely sweet. (I haven't tried the danish, but they look deadly!)
4.) They are generous in sharing their own talents and promoting the talents of others, ensuring access to arts and culture. Each month, they allow a different local artist to show their work on the coffee shop walls. And while ordinarily they are not open past 6 p.m. on Saturday, an exception is made on the 2nd Saturday of each month when you can sit outside and listen to live jazz and/or blues from 8 - 10 p.m. And, by the way, Dennis, the owner, is a bad ass on the harmonica!
We really are so lucky to have such a great business, doing great things, in the community!
All you singletons out there know how tired eating a full package of chicken breasts or pork chops can get! Hobe has reintroduced variety to my at-home menu!
I've been here quite a few times thanks to Groupon and Living Social. I LOAD up with meat and have been consistently happy with my purchases. My go tos are: prime fillet, top sirloin steaks, ground sirloin, butterfly pork chops (boneless). They're always very friendly and I like that they can wrap each item separately. When I get home, whatever I'm not using immediately goes into the freezer and I can take out portions to thaw as needed. (1 if it's just me; 2 or more if I've got company!)
McDonald's drive-thru is the girl who's in her pajamas and in for the night but decides she wants a Manhattan and realizes she is out of ice's best friend. $1 for an 8 lb. bag (2 for $1.50) and you don't even have to get out of the car!!
For our mom's birthday, my sister and I surprised her with a cooking class at Sweet Basil. Not because she needs lessons (my mom's a great cook) but because she enjoys cooking and it was something fun we could all do together.
Our class, Low Fat Faves, was $60 a person. Iced tea (really delicious tropical flavored, unsweetened tea that they sell loose at Sweet Basil) was available to quench our thirst while we listened to the instructor give an overview of each of the 7 recipes we would be preparing that evening.
With the review of each menu item, tips were given. For example, preheat the oven to 10 degrees hotter than what you need it, because the temperature drops when you open the door. Then lower it to the proper cooking temperature after you've put the food in to cook. Or, to more easily slice meat thin, put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing.
There were 15 participants in our class so we broke into teams of 2 (with one woman flying solo) and raised our hands to claim the recipe we wanted to work on during class. We donned our aprons and got to work.
Since Sweet Basil is a kitchen store, there were tons of tools to test drive! It was a lot of fun and about 30-40 minutes later, the instructor was pouring wine for us as we began our buffet dinner. There was a TON of food!
By the time we were finished, our family had to eat and run. Fortunately, because the class didn't start until 6:30, we had grabbed a "light bite" around 5:30. There was no way I could've waited until 9 p.m. to eat - and normally, I wouldn't eat that late at all. A weekend class would probably better fit with my schedule.
The recipes were OK but nothing really floored me. And, the tips were simple. Which was great for people with less time in the kitchen but I think it would also help to have offerings for more experienced cooks.
The instructor definitely was knowledgeable and I plan to keep my eyes peeled for class topics that interest me.
One last highlight: students get 10% off all gourmetware purchases the day of the class (excluding cookbooks, sale and electric items). I picked up a cool prep/cutting board!
I needed a 14-inch round pan for a ruffled milk pie I wanted to make. I tried the home goods section at ROSS; I tried the baking sections of Safeway and Frys; I tried Target... I found NOTHING! I had bookmarked this place after reading my friend Bacon B's review, knowing one day it would make for a fun shopping adventure.
Sure enough, they had my 14-inch round pan. It wasn't fancy. Plain brushed silver color. Not hard on the eyes, at least. AND, they carried the super fine (caster ) sugar at a very reasonable price, another recipe requirement I had some trouble finding.
And, viola! I had everything I needed to try out this new recipe.
It was delicious, by the way. Tastes like a french-toast flavored bread pudding!! Finding the pan and the sugar was the hardest part!
Here's a link to the recipe: findyourcraving.com/musi…
(Only 3 stars because about two weeks later I found a more decorative 14-inch round pan at a European market and the price was the same as what I paid for the plain-jane one...)
I love to grocery shop. It's one of my favorite things. Even with a list, a trip to the grocery store takes me at least an hour because I am compelled to go up and down every aisle to see what new discoveries might be made. Therefore, you might think this would be a 5-star store for me.
But it's not. It's too much.
Even for me.
What's worse, going up and down every aisle is nearly impossible because the aisles go in every which direction.
Will I be back? Probably.
Is this a shopper's panacea? Not for me.
2 reasons to go to Sprouts:
1.) Alexander C. hit the nail on the head - fair price for deli counter sandwiches - I am a huge fan of their tuna salad with sprouts and red onion.
2.) Mr. Krispers (22.214.171.124/) - only place in town to find 'em! (Mr. Krispers get 5 stars, FYI...)
Based on the quick tip I posted: "Check expiration dates :(" You should be able to figure out why I don't love this store.
It used to be my regular grocery spot but they have really let things slide, lately. Recently, I was picking up some yogurt (the store brand bartlet pear is one of my favorite flavors!) and found most of what was on the shelf in the flavor I wanted to have expired. NOT GOOD. Especially since the nearby Fry's used to be scary but it's not any more. Not to mention there's a Fresh & Easy and an AJs across the street.
Come on Safeway... don't relegate my business to watching for Coke products to be on sale!
Went for a wine and chocolate tasting as a guest and had a great time!
The father-son team buy the grapes as juice (layman's terms) and make their own (extremely) small batch wines. Literally, you could taste the same wine and have slight variation, monthly!
Who wouldn't be inspired to witness these guys living their passion? It was fun! I wound up buying a couple bottles to support the cause. The wines are young (as you might imagine) but I'm looking forward to seeing how they age... who am I kidding? Not too long, of course! Just a couple weeks...
Cool tip: For under $450 you can make your own (their recipe, your custom label and modifications). You get about 27-28 bottles which would make super cool, unique holiday gifts!
3 words make me a fan: truffle sea salt.
A tiny pinch on an over medium egg is heaven.
It's an elegant dressing for (microwave) popcorn.
The perfect secret ingredient in roasted vegetables.
It doesn't take much, so the cute, little $6 jar will last for a while. Long enough to be ready for another trip up to the tasting rooms to restock the wine 'fridge!
Pillbury turned me on to Arizona wine. It was the very first I found tolerable, and I'm grateful for that. Hard not to love the Diva and the Aussie does NOT disappoint with the shiraz! A tasting room bonus: pair the wines with chocolates! My personal fave: the hot chile chocolate!!!
Looking for something different to do? Friday Night Fanks! You drive into the darkness of nowhere (the road is now paved) and BAM! you're in the Wild West cookin' your own dog and makin' s'mores over the open flames while being entertained with live music, cornhole and wagon rides under the stars! My only reason for deducting a star is because they're gas fire pits and I really would prefer a wood fire, but I totally get what a challenge that would be to manage!