The Great American Food Trip: Scottsdale, Phoenix

So today was our last day in Scottsdale before heading out into the great unknown, so today we took the time to show my parents a little of the Scottsdale area (having left for Prescott almost straight away they hadn’t seen the city in the day!) We started by visiting the Sanctuary resort, where we had an amazing view of both Camelback mountain (and the Praying Monk) and an overall view of the city. We then dropped into the Phoenician Hotel as it was close by, and the swimming pools are just amazing!

We were then in need of a drink so stopped at Jamba Juice for a smoothie or juice. I had a tropical greens juice, which featured kale, apple, pineapple and chia, which despite dad saying that it looked like a blitzed frog (unsurprisingly!), tasted delicious.

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For lunch we hit one of our favourite spots, the Wildflower Bread Company. This was high on our list from last year and it did not disappoint! We shared a Thai chicken salad, alongside a blackberry orange lemonade, and for someone fed up with boring salads, this was a truly delicious lunch. If all salads were like this, I would eat them constantly! We also enjoyed the free samples of Red, White and Blue Bread (white bread full of blueberries and cranberries – also delicious!)

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After lunch we visited the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), which is a must see, undoubtedly the best museum I have ever been to. I have so far been twice and I still don’t feel like I’ve seen everything it has to offer. I could happily spend an entire day there and it is an essential place for anyone with the slightest interest in music.

During the afternoon, Chloe and I made chocolate chip cookies, though after realising halfway through that we had no eggs, had to make an impromptu substitution of apple sauce. This worked extremely well in the cookies and is one I would use again. If you want to try it the basic measurement is 1/3 cup of apple sauce for every egg used, mixed in at the same time as the eggs would be. I haven’t tried it in cakes but the result in biscuits is good!

For supper we hit The Cheesecake Factory. Containing my urge to order a barbeque bacon cheeseburger with bacon, cheese and barbeque sauce on the side (Big Bang Theory geeks, you know who you are!), we enjoyed the Louisiana chicken pasta, a spicy pasta with peppers and mushrooms, topped with spicy crusted chicken. As usual delicious and big portions! I also sampled one of Chloe’s chicken potstickers, which were amazing and reminded me of how much I wish to make them again. No pictures unfortunately – it was so dark they did not come out at all, as the following shot of my Oreo Milkshake shows.

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That is the best I could get so I admit, I gave up. However the milkshake was amazing. So creamy and tasty, basically a dessert in a glass! As a consequence of this, we were in no fit state to eat cheesecake, so instead we bought a piece of Tiramisu Cheesecake to go, which is currently residing in the freezer to be eaten when we get back.

Tomorrow we set off on the road trip, so for the next two nights we’ll be sampling the culinary delights of Kanab, Utah!

The Great American Food Trip: Prescott, Az.

Now whilst our family (my husband’s uncle) live in Phoenix, as it is HOT there at the moment, we had decided that we would acclimatise to the heat by visiting some friends in their cabin in Prescott. Now this turned out to be a very good idea, particularly as the flight over was not a pleasant experience! After having to wait two and a half hours on the Tarmac at Heathrow (which isn’t so cold itself!) we finally completed the 10.5 hour flight.

Except that’s not what happened.

After a half hour hold over Alberquerque, we then were told that there was a massive dust storm over Phoenix so we could not land. Fair enough – we have seen a video of the storm to know that we also did not want to land there. However, due to a lack of fuel we had to divert to Las Vegas, at which point we had to wait for another two hours, in scorching heat with no air conditioning or water. We finally got into Phoenix 7 hours after the expected time, having been up for over twenty four hours with only about an hours sleep. Now some of you may be fine, me – I need my 8 hours!

But anyway, the next day we woke up and drove to Prescott, stopping first in the town centre which seemed to be cowboy Central, from the shooting range to the people in traditional dress wandering the streets.

For lunch we stopped at the lovely Raven Cafe, an organic cafe in the centre of the town. Knowing about the provenance of food is a brilliant aspect of the new foodie scene in my opinion, and this restaurant included a big blackboard telling you exactly where all the produce has come from – a big plus point! The food was its major selling point though (as it should be). I chose the special of Cajun Fish Tacos, along with sweet potato fries and an iced chai.

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Fish Tacos with Dill Cream

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Sweet Potato Fries

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Iced Chai

The tacos were truly delicious. I tried to eat them in the traditional way which resulted in a lot of mess, but really it was worth it. There were big chunks of subtly flavoured fish, beautifully moist topped with crispy cabbage and a dill yoghurt which added a light but creamy texture to the whole dish. The sweet potato fries were everything they should be – thin, crispy and incredibly more-ish, whilst the iced chai provided a wonderful cinnamon-y accompaniment to the whole meal. Definitely a hit for me, and one to look out for!

For supper we had a barbecue on the deck of the cabin we were staying in, which was just perfection. Now I did not realise that Arizona had forests, but the whole landscape was picture perfect, so peaceful and a wonderful place to escape to. After enjoying our burgers, corn, homemade kale chips and potato salad, we planned to enjoy the next great American Classic – the s’more! However, this got moved inside after we started getting attacked by bugs. Pathetic I know, but when a 2 inch flying beatle starts to attack you, you want to go somewhere where it isn’t! As a result the S’mores and other associated goodies were moved inside. No pictures I’m afraid – I have great admiration for the willpower of anyone who is presented with a hot s’more and waits to take a picture…

The next day, we went for brunch at the Iron Springs Cafe, just down the road from the cabins. Whenever I go to the states, I always find portion sizes hard to gauge, as they are often so much bigger that we are accustomed to, and so we try to sample as many things but without wastage – when the food’s as good as it is, I don’t want to leave any of it on my plate! So between us, Max and I decided on a small gumbo and a plate of Pork Green Chile and associated sides. Both were delicious – the gumbo hot and spicy and filled with chicken and andouille sausage, whilst the pork was falling apart and so flavoursome! I particularly enjoyed the black beans as a side dish, one thing I always miss when I’m in England! Add to that a Mexican iced chocolate, spiked with cinnamon and I was happy!

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Gumbo with Chicken and Andouille Sausage

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Pork Green Chile with rice and black beans

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Mexican Iced Chocolate

Well, that’s about it for the first two days. I leave you with the results of our blind tasting of Malteasters and Malt Balls – Malt balls have more chocolate but everyone (except Max and I) seem to prefer them! However, that doesn’t stop me eating them every time I near the candy bar that cousin Chloe created!

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Happy summer all!

The Great American Food Trip

So, I’m in the USA at the moment, visiting family in Arizona. However tomorrow I’m setting off to drive from Phoenix to Vancouver, and experience some great food and views on the way. As a result the next three weeks are going to be dedicated to more than just cake – sure it’ll be in there, but more than that. It’ll be a food diary of us taking in some of the best that America has to offer (on a reasonable budget)

I’m also going to attempt to sample the best in American baking – last year I was focused purely in cupcakes – this year its time to develop!

Any suggestions as you read? Please let me know and I’ll check it out!

Pancakes, Herring Sandwiches and How to Improve a Chocolate Croissant

For the next post discussing the foods we ate during our recent trip to Amsterdam, I’ll be taking a short trip around some of the smaller foods we ate, some dishes traditionally Dutch, and some less so, but still delicious. Firstly, a visit to the famous Pancake Cafe.

This really needs no explanation. What I particularly liked was the international pancakes – a pancake filled with a combination of national flavours served with a salad garnish. This example was the particularly delicious Greek version, filled with minted lamb, feta, kalamata olives, garlic and pine nuts. Accompanied with salad – both Greek and regular mixed leaf – it was an extremely filling but delicious lunch!

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Max’s pancake was also delicious, filled with ham, cheese and mushrooms – again very generous in size! But his favourite lunch by a mile was the traditional herring sandwich with gherkin. (The gherkin undoubtedly made it for him!) A white roll, filled with pickled herring and gherkin, it was described as being like a ‘healthy thick smoked salmon sandwich. Along with the numerous portions of chips (minus mayonnaise – I’m not going that far!), we ate very well, albeit unhealthily everyday!

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And lastly, Amsterdam have fixed the problem with the chocolate croissant (not enough chocolate!) How to do this? Dip it in chocolate. Problem solved.

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Also, bitterboren. Don’t bother. Particularly when they come from a vending machine.

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A Lack of Fried Ice-Cream

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Night two in the lovely city of Amsterdam, and despite the copious amounts of chips (without mayonnaise – I will never go that far. I know its a traditional food, but still no) we were hungry and ready for supper. After our traditional Dutch meal the night before, we decided to sample the second largest cuisine in the country – Indonesia. Historically a Dutch settlement, Indonesian cuisine has become a staple in Amsterdam and there are many restaurants, many serving the famous rijsttafel. This Dutch colonial dish originated amongst the wealthier Dutch settlers, and whilst the dishes are undisputably Indonesian, the combination of several dishes into the ubiquitous rijsttafel is a tradition rooted in show-offery. The Dutch colonial leaders would produce this banquet of little dishes to show their wealth, and this became so popular that the tradition was brought back over to the Netherlands.  However, after the collapse of colonialism, the Indonesian people rejected all elements of the Dutch settlements, including the famous rijsttafel. This dish is very rarely seen in Indonesian restaurants these days but is famous all over The Netherlands.

For our meal we visited Puri Mas, a restaurant in the same area as The Blauwe Hollander, where we ate last night. Again we were eating in a lovely setting, comfortable and with very helpful staff who were more than happy to cater for our dietary requirements (Max being allergic to banana, we had to ask to have that aspect of the dish removed. However the staff happily replaced it with a spicy cucumber salad which I as happier with!) We ordered the Rijsttafel Special which for €20.50 gave us enough food to keep us full until the next morning!

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The dishes we sampled were:

  • Rice – egg fried and plain
  • Egg in Balinese sauce
  • Salad with peanut sauce
  • Chicken satay
  • Spicy stewed beef
  • Seasoned pork with soy sauce
  • Chicken in curry sauce
  • Haricot beans in a spicy sauce
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Spicy cucumber salad
  • Fried potatoes
  • Fried coconut powder

It was all delicious – there was nothing I didn’t like! The egg in Balinese sauce was a particular favourite, particularly as this was something I was a bit uneasy about at the start. The pork was divine, simply melting in the mouth and the added cucumber salad was a perfect palate cleanser to a large meal.

This was a enormous meal, and one of which we left feeling very full and happy. However, you cannot hand me a dessert menu and not expect me to sample them. I looked, read the menu and looked again. Fried Vanilla Ice Cream. Well that was sold – we had to try it! Sadly though they were out of vanilla ice cream (a slight problem…) However this was only a tiny blip in an otherwise excellent meal. Would we go back? Oh yes!

The Amsterdam Food Adventure

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Over the recent break Max and I went on a short break to Amsterdam, giving us a break from the English storms. (Actually, we nearly didn’t make it as a result –  we found ourselves in Peterborough with no way of getting any further down the country and a plane to catch the next morning. All I can say is thank goodness that Max’s mum is amazing and drove out to pick us up!)

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But anyway, we made it and after breakfast at the airport (which incidently, you can get a much better breakfast at Luton Airport than Schiphol Airport – who’d have thought?) we landed in Amsterdam. Now we had a lovely couple of days of which I could fill lots of posts with, however I’m going to focus on one of the main planned elements – the food. We always get very excited about planning the differnet meals we are going to eat, researching local delicacies, traditional foods and more often than not, the best place to eat them on a budget.

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For the main meals we went straight for the local cuisines – traditional dutch and Indonesian (one of the largest minorities in the country). One the first night we went out on the trail of  a restaurant thrown up by the guidebooks and the internet, Des Blauwe Hollander. This small restaurant was centred in a side street full of eateries, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that unlike so many of the other nearby restaurants, this one did not have members of staff outside trying to drag in hapless customers (this always has two effects on me – either they are too highbrow or just not very good.). Added to the mix were a pleasant interior and helpful staff and we were on a winner.

We chose two dishes; Max had stamppot, a traditional hearty dish similar to bubble and squeak. Mashed potato is combined with kale and bacon and served with a large smoked sausage and gravy. Sounds bland perhaps, but the result was well-flavoured and very tasty. You cannot accuse the Dutch of stinginess with regards to portion size – these were enormous! (the couple at the table next to us barely made an inroad into it!)

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My meal consisted of meatballs wrapped in bacon, served with boiled potatoes, gravy and red cabbage flavoured with apple and orange. Now initially I was almost slightly disappointed – whilst tasty, well-flavoured and well cooked, the results almost seemed a little tame. However then I put all the components on the fork and ate them together – the spark was lit! Whilst separately quite simple ingredients, together they became a brilliant combination, moist, full of flavour but without any of the components being overshadowed. Quite brilliant.

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Now we had to try the desserts, obviously. However, this was in itself so wonderful they deserve a whole post of discussion, as a few sentences just will not do them justice. I leave you then with a menu item that made us smile, and want to ask what on earth was in ‘Heavenly Coffee…’

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