Posts Tagged ‘JuxtaPalate’

TOP PICKS: Candy for the eyes, mouth and brain.

Friday, July 8th, 2011


Although I haven’t bought anything form Gilt Taste yet, I visit the site every day. You should too. Lust-worthy photos, carefully curated products and smart writing (overseen by Ruth herself), inspires my inner cook and foodnik soul. Read the stories, they may be the best part.


The iconic “M” emblem from her posts clutters my Facebook feed daily. But it’s a good kind of clutter, full of juicy local food news, thoughtful reflections on AZ culture and saucy spy secrets. After all, she’s the “Agent of Secrets.” Duh.


The branding queens at See Saw Designs just plain rule. Their kingdom extends far beyond a typical, boring company website to a dreamy land of daily inspirations where a mishmash of fashion, interior design, graphic design, etcetera always bring a smile and a sigh.


Alright bitches, the blogger is back.

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Yeah, yeah . . . I’ve been busy with work, but that’s no excuse for leave you hanging. Professional note: if there are any clients that get  annoyed with this post, you know I love you and these are things I’ve already said to you in person, so there.

On with the show!

Loving it:


Quiessence's barrel-aged cocktails.

Killer cocktails at Quiessence. Why do I love them so much? Maybe because helped put them together. Kick-ass cocktail consultant Bill Degroot made my dreams come true with his Farmhouse Cocktails and his 90-day aged Manhattans.

Yep. Barrel-aged cocktails are the shit. Huge thanks to Bill!

New restaurant openings: A few new spots that pique my interest: Jimmy Woo’s, Amaro Pizzeria & Vino Lounge and Vitamin T.

Nobuo at Teeter House

Nobuo-san, making my dreams come true with his omakase.

The return of adventurous dining: Thank god we’re getting over the “safety food” phase. Don’t get me wrong, “comfort food” will always have a place in our regular rotation (for obvious reasons), but dumbed down eats are just plain boring and over. Thanks to the food gods for bringing back spots like Nobuo At Teeter House and his omakase experience that made me quiver during my back-to-back visits within 7 days (reviewed here by local food blog god Dominic).

I’ve had the pork sweats before, but never the seafood sweats. ‘Nough said.

Luke warm about it:

Food trucks. Yep, I’m that asshole. Yet . . . I’m the biggest fan of the concept. So since I want to see this grow to greatness, I won’t name names. But event the ones I do like, I know you’ll keep getting better (I hope)!

My POV: Either do great food truck-y street eats, or do something chef driven and gourmet. No middle road. Drop the gimmicky menus and deliver, or simply feed me.

Let it die:

Bruschetta. I understand the market for it. You wanna feed the bottom feeders and hungry masses. (which often  includes me too!!!) Let’s all just own that truth and live with the shame. I sounded like Dr. Phil there for a moment.

Burger bonanza. Shut up with your crazy gourmet burgers made with wine, truffles and fired by coal, junk yard tires or cosmic nuclear energy. Quit it.

Annoying advertisers. Completely unrelated to this post, but god dammit quit calling me with every “hot new restaurant directory.”

Always end on a happy note:

Recent things/people I love: You make my life so awesome. I raise my glass of cheap wine (from Tops Liquor) to you! @olllllo, Luxardo, @TheWildLavender, “That waving-paper-thin-fish-pie thingy” (Okonomiyaki, as described by Lisa Polacheck), @StacyPearson, Carlyn Mumm, Rivers Cuomo Fancy Pants III, The Grits at @BeckettsTable, Crystal Light and of course . . .

Judge Judy. May your justice continue to lord over us all.

Grits for the gods.

I pledge allegiance to the grits. And justice.

Moment of honesty: Quiessence and Nobuo are clients of mine, but c’mon . . . But you already know they rock and everything I say about them is totally blog worthy. That’s why I work with them.

Quick 4: Your “must-go” spots for Arizona Restaurant Week

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

It is here. Toss out the skinny jeans and dust off the eatin’ dress. (Sorry Gwen, the gourmand garb is JxP territory! HAHA!)

Before we get started here’s a big tip: TIP! Please tip appropriately. During Restaurant Week, the food is discounted, but the appreciation for service shouldn’t be. If you’re second guessing, just double the tip.

Atlas Bistro — This is a wickedly under-appreciated gem in our city. It tops my Arizona Restaurant Week list, but should also be in the rotation of best restaurants in Arizona. BYOB is made easy with an epic wine shop next door. Make your reservations NOW. Last year, we had to pull some strings to get in during restaurant week.


Iruna* –The unstoppable indie restaurateur, Chef Aaron May (watch out Sam Fox) is flexing his culinary muscles as confidently as ever, serving destination-dining worthy Spanish tapas at an already affordable price point. Restaurant Week only sweetens the deal. Don’t miss the Pollo Colonial, Fliet Mingon, and one of my new favorite obsessions — the Marcona Almond Turron (Frozen almond souffle that takes like cereal and milk)!


Vincent’s – Cauliflower Soup with Chipotle Brioche Croutons. Lobster Omelette. Need I say more? With long history in the Valley, Vincent is still a prized chef and his charm-oozing spot on Camelback should regular repeat on your list of fave restaurants. PS — A weekend morning at his outdoor food market is culinary paradise.


Talavera at Four Seasons Resort — So much for keeping resorts off the list. Foodie pal EricEatsOut treated me to an amazing dinner here recently and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since. The AZRW menu doesn’t hold back with starters like Corn Bisque-Snow Crab, Bell Pepper and Fennel Pollen!


Forgive the “local rant,” but please, for the love of god, skip the chain-y spots. This is AZ Restaurant Week! Go for uniquely AZ spots!

(And no, I’m not one of those local everything in the universe people… Just this week.)

Oh and click over to Pen & Fork for even better-ly written strategies for AZRW. Gwen is great!

*The honest truth! Iruna is a client of mine, but as you know, I only work with the BEST! I hand pick who I work with and this place has the goods!

The forgettable five.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010


Back to the food blog roots… just wanted to share a few observations from recent dining experiences. These are a little on the negative nancy side, but tomorrow I’ll share some things I really like!

But first, let’s rip the band-aid off and let the healing begin…

Fine Dining Staff That Wear Costumes.
Save the act for Walt Disney World. (that’s where I did my internship… long story). Folks already know they’re in a Spanish restaurant, no need for Flamenco dancers and matador costumes.

Taco Fever.
Hello 2007-08 (along with the burger). I swear I was only joking when I suggested an event around this food as commodity staple. Then *poof* it appeared! Don’t’ get me wrong, I love a good taco! Who doesn’t? The hype is about 2-3 years too late, kids.

Tasteless “Eye Candy” Cupcakes.
Or any bland sweet for that matter. You know who you are. People still love you cause you were the first to push the product with a cute name. Certainly not the best. Ah the sweet taste of mediocrity.

Expensive Frozen Yogurt.
Wait, what? Yeah, Mojo blows. Anyone have a good lead on great froyo that’s not a gouger?

$16 Cocktails
I’ve always despised this, but even more so after my NYC trip. Even $14 is really pushing it. If the top bars in the country can pull off the best cocktail I’ve had in my life for only $12, y’all have no business charging $16+ for vodka sugar bombs.

BAR REVIEW: The Piano Room in downtown Flagstaff

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I loooove latex in my cocktails. Wait, what?…

Taking a cue from our server at Tinderbox Kitchen in Flagstaff, @azhotdish @petitefromageAZ @DoesntTweetAZ @thewildlavender and I braved the icy 40-degree weather and walked to a new cocktail joint in downtown Flag.

The cutting winds nearly froze me to the concrete. For a moment, I didn’t think I could go on. Luckily, Joel (@azhotdish) picked me up and carried my shivering body to the bar.

He was like my bar mule, and I was thankful.

I hitched my mule outside our destination; The Piano Room. You enter this “speakeasy” through a narrow doorway in the alley, walk up a few steps and your in a small bar surrounded by large brick walls and warm lighting. Think ski lodge rather than speakeasy. Cute and cozy with intimate tables, a handsome bar and even a VIP nook big enough to accommodate all 5 of us (including my mule).

The server was very kind and enthusiastically bragged on the Italy-trained chefs turned bar owners that infuse their own vodka in the basement below. Very cool! Clearly the place to be in Flagstaff.

flag_balloon02The actual menus were a neat idea, but a little rough looking… Printed and pasted inside old books from the Flagstaff library. Laura suggested a little glu-stick on the menus might make them more presentable. The pages with actual menu items were randomly placed throughout the books, making it tricky to navigate.

At $8 bucks a pop, we all found interesting cocktails that were also easy on the pocket book.

And then it happened.


Yep. Those are frozen water balloons in the drinks.

According to the server, the owners/chefs decided that regular ice watered down the cocktails too much when melted.

  1. You know that yummy latex taste when you blow up a balloon? Yeah, now make a drink with that.
  2. It was like a birthday party with the colors of balloons served in our drinks. Blue, yellow…etc.
  3. The balloons were so big and the glasses so small, the actual cocktail was probably only 1.5 oz or so. ($8 bucks)

The positive: The place has the bones of a winner. In fact, I really think it should be a winner. Lower the lights, fix the menus, and don’t ruin your handcrafted, house-infused drinks with rubber (or latex, or whatever balloons are made of these days).

Luckily, my fresh grapefruit juice cocktail was served tall, sans balloon. There were some interesting and good things happening with everyone ‘s cocktails too, but we just couldn’t get past the balloons.

Bottom line, I’d love another reason to visit Flagstaff regularly! Hoping to come back up soon and I will certainly stop by again.

Hell, I might even save on gas and ride my mule.

-Your cocktail pal JxP

The Piano Room – Flagstaff, Arizona
No number available

I want this book: “Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods”

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

In the not too distant past, many AZ peeps and chefs have talked about “eating & sourcing locally,” but few every really committed to it. Want proof? Just ask our farmers… they know exactly who is walking the walk. And who is not.

Nowadays, it seems like more and more chefs are getting back to the roots of good cooking and paying attention to the source of their ingredients.  Love it.

Edbile Communities, parent brand to our own Edible Phoenix magazine, is set to release their new book highlighting America’s locally-centric food heros, farmers and products along with 80 seasonal recipes.  If it’s anything like our local Edible publication, this book will be a must-have in every foodnik’s library.

It will be available April 26th.

Lucky for me, Pamela Hamilton, Editor of Edible Phoenix magazine is giving me a sneak peek of the book tonight at Quiessence’s Earth Day dinner. (Chef Greg LaPrad of Quiessence is featured in the book).

Pre-order copies right here.

Hopefully, Chef Gwen will blog a review of the book and give us her take!

Moment of Honesty: I proudly work with LaPrad and although he is mentioned in the book, he receives no bling from any purchases. He’s just happy to be included. Very cool.

On the hunt for low-cal cocktails.

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

cocktailsPool season is here and I look like shit. I’m completely out of shape. I finally made my first personal training appointment in ages and I’m on a mission to cut back the calories…. starting tomorrow.

On the caloric chopping block: my beloved cocktails. (By the way… I’ve always wanted to write “my beloved cocktails”)

Does anyone have experience with cutting out the sugar while keeping the booze? How does Splenda work in a drink? Awful? Good?

Do you have a favorite low-cal cocktail?

C’mon. Let’s work together on my waistline and still support my alcoholism.

REVIEW: True Food Kitchen – FRESH Dinner Series

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

On April 16th and 17th, director Sofia Joanes’ indie film, FRESH hits Tempe’s Madcap Theaters for limited screenings. The trailer states that “FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system.”

The folks behind the film enlisted bloggers (ahem) as part of a neat rootsy campaign to spread the word about the movie. My task? I attended the True Food Kitchen FRESH dinner where $29 scored a 3-course meal + a voucher to see the flick. (Don’t worry, I’ll break down the everyday menu prices below) TFK was selected by FRESH for its “sincere care for the sourcing of ingredients.”

On with the show!

Consider yourself a devout heath nut? Is your preferred shopping companion a shi-poodle, schnoodle or labradoodle? Sam Fox and Dr. Andrew Weil have built you a beautiful place of worship inside the Biltmore Fashion Park. (Rumors say a chain of the restaurants will soon satisfy coastal California lettuce eaters)


We began with two “green” apps. I loved the simple Tuscan kale salad ($6) topped with parmesan, olive oil and toasted bread crumbs. It was crisp and lemony with a warming amount red pepper flakes. The green herby hummus ($8)  had a sour smack (in a good way) while the accompanying pita bread was tasty but powdered with a little too much loose flour.


Next up, the diver scallops ($22) were the highlight of the night. Five well-seared sea creatures on a mix of black rice, lotus chips and peas were bathed in sweet ponzu. I will be back for this.

My friend’s wild ahi sliders ($13) were alright, but this typically wouldn’t be my pick on a menu anyway. Not worth writing about.

Finally, desserts were easy winners. He scored a flourless chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel. My lemon olive oil cake shined with an easily delish combo of  strawberries and mint dolloped with tangy yogurt.


Sit on the patio and you might just see the wild schnoodle roaming the sidewalks.

Yes. I really do enjoy TFK for a light meal and glass of wine at a reasonable price. Appetizers and salads are always pleasing. In fact, could order the Tuscan kale salad and a cocktail and instantly feel California chic-y. The restaurant itself is spacious with a patio perfect for dog/people watching.

Editor’s note: Go see FRESH.

Ty’s note: I have no editor. Just go see it.

Moment of honesty: Nope… none of my meal was compensated by True Food Kitchen or FRESH. This was simply a topic and campaign I was interested in. Keeping it kosher!

-Your food pal, JxP

True Food Kitchen
P: 602.774.3488

True Food on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: El Coquito, Puerto Rican soul food in Scottsdale

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Me encantan Puerto Rican food… and this place hits the spot. During my college internship in Florida, I fell madly in love with a Puerto Rican and was introduced to the soulful cuisine of the island.  Since then, I’ve trimmed the fat (literally, the overweight ex-lover) and kept my infatuation with the cooking.

My modest attempts to prepare traditional dishes at home are now moot since El Coquito does it so well. The affordable mom-n-pop joint offers all the favorites, earning a loyal following of transplanted New York Puerto Rican families and wannabe borincanos like myself.

Important: This is a BYOB spot. You must prepare accordingly.


If you’re a true foodie, you already carry a stylish “Rum Purse,” pictured above. Any brown paper bag will do. Simply stock it with your favorite bottles of rum and carry it anywhere you go. The Rum Purse guarantees instant popularity in any situation, especially at a Puerto Rican restaurant that serves a signature “virgin” coconut cocktail (The Coquito) that begs to be bathed in liquor.

If you’re lucky (like we were), the server will have a freshly inked tattoo exposed on her back. The sight of an exposed open wound might be a bit much, but trust me, the food is worth the damage to your eyes.


Once your rods and cones have recovered, you’re in for a regional treat. One could munch on the appetizers of plantains, cod fritters and pastelillos (empanadas) alone. But then you’d miss out on family favorites including roast pork (my fave), marinated steak strips and pollo guisado. Pick your choice of rice plus pigeon peas, pink beans or black beans.

As for customers, an abundance of Puerto Ricans and gays is a good sign. In my most recent visit, it was pure coincidence that most our table of six just happened to be food-loving gay men. Mid-meal, another gay couple sat at the table next to us. (One shall be designated as “The Jackpot”) Then, several Puerto Rican families rotated through the restaurant throughout the night.

What does this all mean? My new gay buddies love good food… and real Puerto Ricans love this place. A sweet mix.


NOTE: The “Jackpot” guy in the image above hit the demographic trifecta: Gay, Puerto Rican and he was celebrating his birthday at El Coquito. What more evidence do you need to be convinced this place has it goin’ on?

DO: Order the Coquito virgin cocktail and spice it up with the contents of your “Rum Purse.”

DON’T: Let the sometimes slow service distract you from the worthwhile food. It’s really that good.

DO: Mention that you love the Yankees! The owners are Puerto Rican NY’rs love the Yankees.

DON’T: Utter the word “Mets.”

DO: Take a moment to peek in the window of Bennies Back Alley Barbershop next door. It’s the Taj Mahal of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. (very bizarre)

DO: Visit El Coquito often. Just ignore the Lisa Frank tattoos.

-Your food pal, JxP

El Coquito

El Coquito Puerto Rican Cafe on Urbanspoon

Behold… the reviews cometh.

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

YOU: “So… we get it. You eat out all the time. Where the hell are the reviews and comments?”

ME: “…um …uh… shit”

Truth is, I have dozens of reviews written and ready to post. The problem? I’m just plain self conscious about writing and publishing a big chunk of critical text. My job has me writing, writing, writing several hours a day and practically drains the creative jucies out of my skull.

Adding to the pressure, my career and lifestyle surrounds me with great food writing by pros and non-pros both locally and nationally. On the flip side, there are tons of lame reviewers out there.

So where will I fit in? What will my peers think?

After a pep talk from my saucy little gal pal in food, I’ve finally have the confidence to start posting some of these reviews. No more excuses.

The Plan: Go with what you know.

Readers, expect a different take on food and dining reviews. Not for the sake of being different, but because I can only publish materials using the voice/medium that I’m most confident in.

Or should that be confident with.

Hell. See what I mean about confidence?

…coming soon: reviews on JuxtaPalate