Friday, May 29, 2009

Y'all hungrey?

If you are from or have lived in Texas, you know what I am talking about when I say Frito Pie! Those of you who have never had this totally bad for you food, are probably thinking "Frito? In pie?" Yeah that's what I said when I first moved to Texas. I have since escaped Texas, but Frito Pie and the word "y'all" have stuck with me!
Oh yeah...and that Tattoo...Frito Pie...its not really pie. This is how it starts! This is the loaded version, so if you are on a diet...just skip this one. In Texas the chili used for this pie is usually bean free, you can use whatever you like best!

My Mise En Place

Heat the chili and pour it over a handful of Fritos.

Sprinkle with cheese
Add a dollop of Sour cream.
Last but not least, Salsa! Bon Appetite Y'all!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Here is to the Divas!

The Diva's Kitchen
4030 E Bell Rd. #112
Phoenix Arizona 85032
There seems to be a lot of Divas in my life these days, and they are all appreciated! Today I was driving down the road and saw a banner with sparkling pink lettering "Divas Kitchen , Salads Wraps and Sandwiches" Well how do you pass that up?

When you walk through the doors of this little cafe, you are welcomed by the friendly Diva April Peck and the colorful atmosphere. There are book shelves all along one wall, filled with used books...this used to be a coffee bar and used book store. I guess the books stayed, and there is a free book exchange. There are Mosaic top tables and chairs with bright red cushions. In the middle of the room is a large cafe umbrella in a rainbow of colors. Out a side door is a dog friendly patio...don't forget your doggie bags...
Behind the counter are colorfull chalk board menus and a bright yellow menu hanging from the ceiling, easy to read...hard to choose just one!
I am told by the friendly Diva that the top sellers are:
From the salads; Diva Blue which is Romaine, bacon crumbles, blue cheese, dried cranberries slivered almonds and ranch dressing. Salads are $6.95

In the sandwich section its the The Blowout a six inch wheat hoagie topped with sliced turkey, shredded bacon, ham, tomatoes, romaine, mayo and shredded cheddar. Sandwiches are $6.95 and served with the daily salad.

The top selling Wrap is the Cowboy all wraps are served on your choice of tortilla in flavors like tomato basil, spinach herb or whole wheat. the cowboy is filled with romaine, cheddar , roasted chicken, BBQ sauce, corn, black beans, croutons, tomatoes and ranch. Wraps are $8.95 and come with a daily side salad with the home made dressing of the day.

There are also Divalisious coffee drinks all in one Diva size, Large. The diva-barista said I could have it as strong as I want for the one size fits all price of $3.75, I said make her strong! There is a flavored ice tea, today it was strawberry Kiwi. In a glass dispenser on the counter is the Diva daily concoction that, today was sparkling Hawaiian punch...I LOVE Hawaiian punch!

So four shots of espresso and a Diva Blue salad later I was walking out the door with a little more spring to my step.
I will need to go back to this Diva's Kitchen to try The Italian Stallion sandwich: Pepperoni, salami, shredded mozzarella, pepperonchinis, vidalia onion balsamic, onions, tomatoes and chopped romaine. How can I pass that up?

I give this little cafe a 4 sister rating...that Italian Stallion could push it over to 5! When I left I still had half my Large coffee to enjoy...until I immediately dumped it in the cup holder of my vehicle! That is NOT where coffee goes!

***Dine-in *** Take out*** Catering*** FREE DELIVERY***

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cocktail Du Jour

I have a friend and coworker Nicole who like me enjoys a cocktail, or glass of wine now and then... Currently though she is 9 weeks and 4 days from giving birth to her 4Th child and first son! Not that she is counting... She happens to be one of the Pregnant people who will not even take a sip of an alcoholic beverage until the baby is out. Such will power!

This being said Nicole continues to get together with her neighbors for monthly Bunko parties. She does not arrive empty handed either, She is always supplying some kind of creative concoction for those who are not pregnant to enjoy. Personally I think it is a good way to get rid of the cheep booze in her liquor cabinet, before she is tempted to drink it herself!

This is one of those concoctions that I am told went over so well that as soon as she is able Nicole will be indulge in one herself!

Pregers Count down

1-2 ounces vodka or rum (whatever is in the back of your liquor cabinet)

4-6 ounces Mango/ peach juice

1-2 circles of Grenadine

In a martini shaker filled half way with ice pour all ingredients and shake vigorously. Using a strainer pour over ice and garnish with an orange or whatever fruit you have available.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh Baby!

It is in Phoenix this does not usually cause celebration. But summer means BBQ right? So on this very warm day I decided to make Baby Back Ribs, and usually I bake them in the oven on low for a few hours...But I am in Phoenix. I probably could have just wrapped these babies up in foil and set them in my garage for the day and that would have had the same result as the oven!

Contrary to the term BBQ I don't use my BBQ Grill for these ribs at all...

I opted for my trusty crock pot that substitutes as my oven, in the summer months. My favorite way to cook pork ribs is to make a dry rub, smear it generously all over the ribs, let it sit and soak up the flavors in the fridge. Then of course slow cook them till they are falling off the bones.

Normally I am not the biggest fan of BBQ, I lived in Texas for many years...I still can not stand to be anywhere near Mesquite! BBQ is also very messy...something about having it all over you and under your nails, disturbs me a bit. My guy on the other hand loves BBQ, and ribs especially, so I decided I would figure out how to make ribs that we both would enjoy!

As I am sure you all have heard by now, I am not the kind of cook who measures things, I am a bartender by trade so I measure by count or parts... and of course by taste!

Dry Rub for Pork Baby Back Ribs:

Parts are probably like table spoons...

3 parts brown sugar
1 part garlic powder
1 part onion powder
1/2 part cumin
1 part kosher salt
1 part red pepper flakes or cayenne
1 part black pepper
2 parts pumpkin pie spice

I like to place all these in my handy little Magic bullet blender and grind it into a fine powder. It should taste sweet, spicy, with a hint of salt. Adjust to taste.


Cut the ribs into portions of about 4 ribs per piece. Score the back membrane, and coat generously with the dry rub. Make sure you save about a shot glass sized amount of the rub, to add to the sauce...yeah there will be some sauce.

I like to place these in foil, wrapping so that they are overlapping but have foil between, so they don't stick together. Place in the fridge for at least an hour but can be done up to 24 hours. Also you might want to put this into a bowl or bag just in case it drips. Then place the entire thing (minus plastic) in the crock pot on high, or the oven on 250. Cook for about 5 hours. the house will smell fantastic at this point! If you do this in the oven, place it in a roasting pan to catch the drippings. This time, I actually used an oven bag inside my crock pot and there was no mess!

The sauce is whatever your favorite BBQ sauce is plus the shot of dry rub simmered in a small sauce pan. This just tied it all together.

After about 5 hours of cooking remove the ribs...carefully, and place them on a cookie sheet and bast with the sauce. Place them under the broiler on high. Keep an eye on it or they will burn and smoke like crazy! I like to get them toasted just enough so there are some blackened crispy edges...that's the best part!

In Texas the beverage of choice would be some light beer in a can...I of course chose to serve a white wine with my ribs! Nothing like a chilled glass of wine on a hot summer day!





This wine has a combination of crisp fresh citrus and a rich apricot and honeysuckle flavor that complimented the BBQ sauce quite well! I bought this wine at my local Trader Joe's and it was only $4! Now in this economy, that is a steal! Even though I am new to the white wine world, I think this wine is very tasty! I hope you enjoy this meal as much as I do...even if I do need a bath after eating it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tapas...NOT Topless!

This blog has been slow in the making , but here goes finally!

Thursday, April 30Th was my birthday...we will not discuss my age, and I think I will stop aging now.
The first 6 hours of my day was spent in the car, as the passenger from Phoenix to San Diego. Carlsbad California to be exact, my guy and I arrived at, as you know our Favorite Starwood Hotel, the Sheraton located directly next Lego Land...Never been to Lego Land and since I have no desire to go.

On check in Guest Service Representative Kira Kahn welcomed us and for my birthday bumped us up to the concierge level. So Of course we started the evening with free wine and appetizers on the lawn, relaxing in the Adirondack chairs. While the wine was not the best, it was definitely the best price! Thanks Kira!

Chef Reed Anderson, I am told is the man in charge of creating the fabulous Tapas at the Sheraton Carlsbad. The ingredients for Tapas night come to the chef every week via the local farmers, so the menu changes according what is fresh and in season, and it shows! Every Thursday at Twenty/20 Grill &Wine Bar is Tapas night from 5pm to 8pm and it is big!

Unlike the food, which as Tapas means...small food, my interpretation. The always friendly staff serve up a variety of cooked to order Tapas, special wines for $5 a glass and there is live music.

The chefs prepare all the Tapas right out on the Patio on Portable grills and Flat tops. This adds to the great ambiance the smell of great food cooking, the cool ocean breezes and the relaxing live music...perfect! The large patio has a great view of the ocean, yes there is a parking lot and about 2 miles between us and the actual beach.

There are lots of romantically lit tables a double sided fire place, and relaxing couches. Tall out door heaters are scattered about, and in theory keep the area comfortable year round. being southern California it can get a bit chilly when the sun sets.

The heater situation was a funny one, I say this after a couple glasses of wine mind you...there seemed to be a shortage of full propane tanks, and the management spent all night juggling large heaters trying to find ones that worked...Our table seemed to be the place heaters go to die. A heater would be all fired up and heating those around it until they moved it to our table! Then poof! it was dead. we killed at least three heaters before we found a good sturdy one! No worries though, there was plenty of wine and laughter to keep us from freezing. My darling sister (barefoot mommy) and her husband joined me and my guy for this fun occasion. Good company, great wine and even better food will go a long way to make you feel warm in any situation!

The Menu is pretty simple with price sections of $1 - $6. Each price section had one or two delicious options. Having experienced Tapas Night on a previous occasion I was looking forward to sharing the experience with family. Our server first brought out a bowl of popcorn as a snack with black sea salt sprinkled on it, and offered wine. The special wines of the night were a variety of Malbec and a Tempranillo...unfortunately I had, had a couple glasses of wine prior to dinner (free club level wine...)and forgot to get the names of these wines....Bad Wino! Lets just focus on the food for now...

Our server left us alone with the menu to make our selections. Let me just state our reservation was for 7 pm... This only gave us an hour to eat Tapas! Our waiter (and my guy) didn't seem to feel the urgency in this as much as I did. About 20 minutes after seven when he arrived to take our order I felt this could be my last chance to place an order ( I know, ye of little faith!). So being the food fan I am I ordered one of everything except a salmon dish...and the shrimp cocktail...not a fan of sea food. The waiter, looked at me like I was crazy, and might have even asked "are you sure? you know you can order more later, just as long as its before 8pm". by now it was already 7:30 and I was taking no risks! Everyone else went with about 3 selections...optimists!
These are some selections I made; Bruchetta which was actually just a toasted slice of baguette with olive oil and balsamic, tasty and simple.

Grilled pear tomatoes in olive oil sprinkled with feta cheese. The mini Chili Relleno, sweet little yellow peppers grilled and stuffed with creamy goat cheese, yummy and adorable!

Then there was the chicken taco...with ham, avocado and a sour cream sauce and I believe Panela cheese.

Hummus on a small pita, simple yet delicious. Being a lover of all things beef I also got the fillet with the sauteed mushrooms and a sharp English cheese, this was the best! Next time I am getting two of those!

I can not remember the exact name for the next one...I think it was Mongolian Beef BBQ. There were strips of beef in a sweet and tangy sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds, and served on top of watermelon and a side of cucumber slices.

This evening was absolutely wonderful, we laughed we ate really good food. Yes we may have been a bit cold, but it did not slow down the fun! Thank you Barefoot Mommy for the great company, and thank you Chef Reed for all the wonderful flavors!

This is definitely a 5 sister rating every time!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sheraton Carlsbad the experience!

For those who know me well, it comes as no surprised that I have a favorite hotel. I LOVE hotels, maybe its the shiny clean bathroom and bedrooms or the fact that I can get food and beverage at anytime and not have to clean up after any of it. OR maybe the relaxing by a pool and hot tub with a beverage of choice. And don't forget the Spa!

My favorite Hotel is the Sheraton Carlsbad Located between San Diego and Los Angeles and only a couple miles from some of the most relaxing beaches. If you have small children, this hotel is located next door to Lego Land. I am told by many of the small people staying at the hotel with their parents that Lego Land is tons of fun! I will take their word for it...

When you first arrive at the Hotel you drive up a long drive to the top of a hill from which you can see the Ocean! The Lobby is high ceilings, glass doors and windows letting in the southern California sun and letting you enjoy the view. Out the front doors and windows is the ocean view, out the back is the pool and a central outdoor courtyard with scattered couches, comfy chairs and umbrellas. The business center is to the left when you walk in and has everything you could possibly need to work, cruise the Internet, or check up on your favorite blog spot...

My guy and I have been coming to this hotel since it first opened about two years ago. Every time we are greeted by the friendly Guest services employees, our favorite is Kira Kahn who has been there for us every time! Kira is always friendly and efficient, when we first met Kira she was newly pregnant and now has an adorable little boy! It feels like family now.

Surprising I know, my guy and I have spent some time at the Twenty/20 Grill and Wine Bar. There we have met many of the friendly staff. Robert the bartender on Sundays always remember us and entertains us with beach stories, tips and is also the one who turned us on to the local favorite breakfast spot Pipes (we will get to that!). On other days you can find the shiny bald headed Jason behind the bar helping you chose the best glass of wine for any occasion. Yes Mac and cheese like this is an occasion! Twenty/20 Wine Bar serves 30 wines by the glass and offers more than 100 selections by the bottle. Jason makes us feel like regulars, in a good way!

All the bartenders and servers have been friendly and full of personality. No matter if you are staying alone here for business or here with your family to visit Lego Land, or like me just getting out of the heat of Phoenix the employees make you feel comfortable and at home. The menu features new vineyard cuisine, native ingredients infused with new modern recipes created by the team of Chefs.

Chef Steven Patrick - Executive Chef is in charge of all things culinary in this hotel and has a passion for fresh, natural ingredients and products provided by local farmers and purveyors such as Valdivia Farms, Brandt Beef, and Carlsbad Aqua Farms.

Reed Anderson - Executive Sous Chef is a member of the Slow Food movement, an organization dedicated to protecting the heritage of food, tradition and culture by opposing food processes that are harmful to humans, animals or the environment. Chef Anderson can be seen preparing delicious Tapas on the patio every Thursday night.

For breakfast one morning, guess what I had?! You got it Huevos Ranchero! Very Very good!

The pool area is well planned and spacious, the first couple of visits we thought " wow there are a lot of chairs....and pretty much just us". Good thing for the hotel the pool has started to get busy, lots of kids having fun and parents relaxing. There is also a very large hot tub, that helps to soothe Lego Land weary parents. Pool towels are always fully stocked and they even provide swimming diapers for their tiny guests.

The fitness center overlooks the pool area. I have visited order to keep eating and drinking one must balance it out... The view of the pool from the treadmill is a combination of relaxing, and like the carrot at the end of a stick. personally I love that all the treadmills and elliptical machines have TVs and they provide earphones. My favorite is the food Channel or the travel Channel while working out. The Fitness Center is always clean and one of the largest with a wide selection of equipment.

Next to the Fitness center, conveniently is the Ocean Pearl Spa. The Spa is a relaxing and always enjoyable place. Do not ask my guy about the spa...he does not understand the two hundred dollar facial... We all know that Hotel Spas are not known to be cost effective, they are fun though!

The rooms at the Sheraton are large and comfortable. Half the rooms have a view of the golf course next door and or the pool. The west side of the Hotel faces the ocean of course! If you can get one of the west facing rooms on the 3rd floor, do it! lovely! The one thing I am confused about is the Sheraton is it determined which rooms get one? Randomly our rooms have had one...Kira? Is there a rhyme or reason? I am not complaining, just curious.

My favorite part of the day in this place is sunset. There is a beautiful grassy area on the front side of hotel with white Adirondack chairs that make the perfect place to enjoy some very good wine and watch the sun sink below the oceans horizon. If you are lucky and the conditions are just right you might even catch the green flash!

Green Flashes and green rays are optical phenomena that occur shortly after sunset or before sunrise, when a green spot is visible for a short period of time above the sun, or a green ray shoots up from the sunset point.

This Hotel wins a 5 sister rating!

Monday, May 11, 2009

So Brazin!

Life is good, I am sitting in cool Carlsbad California on a patio writing about wine....can it get any better? Well I suppose you could say if I was drinking wine it could be better. It is only 9 am though and even I have to draw the line somewhere! You all know that Bloody Mary's are the breakfast drink of choice! I have not even had breakfast yet, so give me an hour...

Yesterday my guy and I arrived in Carlsbad, and spent the afternoon lounging by the pool. OK I was trying to nap and recover from working till 1am and then getting up at 6 am to drive the 6 hours it takes to get out of the heat. Napping not quite as easy as it sounds though when you are sharing the pool with about 30 kids...So as evening arrived, we decided it was time to have some wine and take in a sunset.

With the help of Robert the bartender the perfect wine choice was made. Brazin Old Vine Zin from Lodi California, is a deep cherry red with the flavors of dark berries, pepper and dates. This wine is full of flavor and has beautifully silky legs. Not being one of the biggest Zinfandel's I have ever had or as light as say a Pinot Noir this makes a great sunset watching wine!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is it chicken or is it Tuna?

Today I decided to be healthy! Might only last for today, or until another something fried comes along...this picture came out so pretty I could not help but want to share it with all of you!

This beautifully salad was pretty fast, easy and quite tasty. I made tuna salad, with the usual mayonnaise and pickle relish (I like dill), a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, diced green bell pepper, and diced celery.

I used wild arugula (none of that shy tame stuff for me!), and shredded green cabbage. A diced tomato, 1/2 an avocado sliced, and of course finely shredded cheese. Cause everything is better with cheese!

I am thinking next time I will go with red and yellow bell pepper and maybe some crumbled goat cheese.... OK now I am hungry again!

In case you forgot what it looks like....Its almost to pretty to eat.

I have also decided a Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc chilled in the freezer and served in a frozen wine glass would go quite nicely with this summer lunch. This wine is very crisp and has a slight citrus flavor. Very refreshing on a hot Arizona afternoon.