America · Arizona · California · Food · Travelling

Post-Flight Jet Lag

I’m back in England now and suffering from the curse of flying west to east – Jet lag! I tried to avoid the worst of it – I slept about four hours on the plane (discovering that eye masks are actually a massive help in sleeping was a game changer!), stayed up until the evening and tried to keep to as normal a routine as possible, but it’s not completely worked, so I’m going to be productive and use this time to write about a few of the final thing we have done, places we saw and food we ate in our final days in Phoenix and San Francisco.

On the final Sunday we all went out for brunch at the Biltmore hotel, which was undergoing HUGE renovations at the time – it looked unrecognisable inside from our previous visits! All the interiors were halfway through being repaired, the main entrance in particular was being redone at the time! However, brunch at Frank and Albert’s was still delicious. I decided on the huevos rancheros, which featured a lot of guacamole, cheese and the most delicious chorizo, all with added black bean purĂ©e which is always a bonus!


The Biltmore is also the only place where meat and cheese is a necessary addition to a Bloody Mary. This wasn’t my drink so I can’t vouch for if it added to the flavour, but it definitely added interest!


After brunch we took a wander around some of the grounds of the hotel, Nathaniel did some painting and we enjoyed the sunshine for a short while. The hotel has some beautiful features to it and I can only imagine it must be a lovely place to stay! 





In the afternoon, Chloe and I tried to replicate the Arizona baking-cookies-outside challenge, however we chose the wrong week in which to visit for that! Despite earlier in the year having been unbearable for Phoenix, we hit right in the middle of monsoon season. Thunderstorms, yes. Humidity – oh yes! But temperatures hot enough to bake cookies on the hood of your car? Not so much. We nearly made it with one set on the hood of the car inside the garage, but the heat just wasn’t there (and the batter was disposed of before the experiment could be finished…)


Test site one – by the swimming pool. (The shadow is me – they weren’t in the shade). These were not a success – they were disposed of after being eaten by ants and stood on… 


On the car bonnet in the garage – the one closest to working!


On the car bonnet outside – much cooler than in the garage so not a real success either…

The final evening in Phoenix was completed by night swimming (after a steak barbecue and many cakes!) and water balloons- the perfect way to cool down.


If only this was appropriate in England!

The next day (Monday) we flew back to San Francisco, just for one night. Landing in the late afternoon we arrived at our hotel, checked in for our flight the next day and also realised we had got there just in time for cookies – you know it’s a good hotel when they give you tea and cookies/brownies at 4pm! We then headed out to Chinatown and enjoyed a massive Chinese Szechuan banquet for our final meal (we hadn’t eaten yet!)


Chicken and lemongrass potstickers and fried wontons


Spicy beef and vegetables

Apparently I failed to take pictures of the rest but it also included hot and sour soup, cashew chicken and mixed fried rice – alongside the fortune cookies and tea! Absolutely delicious, particularly the beef, but I definitely don’t feel the need to eat Chinese food again for a while!


San Francisco in the evening

The next morning we walked around through the districts of Mission in order to prepare for the long flight ahead, particularly with regard to food – I do not have faith in airline meals! We started with breakfast at Hayes Valley Bakeworks with this wonder:


Maple-bacon-cinnamon rolls – whoever invented this is a genius. I’m a sucker for that flavour combination anyway and this was simply divine!

After walking through from our hotel to Mission and around the surrounding areas for a few hours, we broke for lunch/brunch at about 11 at El Taqueria Farolito, a recommendation which proved to be an amazing find. Absolutely huge burritos – I had the regular and I dread to think what the large would have been like! We made the rookie mistake of ordering chips as well – not a plan! The proteins were also hugely varied – we went for the safer options of carne asada (steak) and chorizo but we could have had beef tongue, beef head or beef brains! Maybe next time!


Finally to complete I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit Bi-Rite Creamery (also in Mission) – another recommendation which I was happy to receive! After vacillating between flavours such as peach cobbler, basil and watermelon-coconut I finally decided to go with the black sesame and strawberry balsamic combination. Definitely a good final dessert in San Francisco.

America · National Foods · Salads · Travelling

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!

Baking Research · Cupcakes

The Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge, Part 2

Flag of Arizona

Last time on the Great Phoenix Cupcake Challenge we awarded the prizes for storefront, decoration, most random location and range of flavours (for the full details see here). Today however we bring out the big guns, the OSCARS of this cupcake tasting championships. Today we will discuss the results for the best individual cupcakes and crown our overall champion, the queen of Phoenix’s cupcake shops.

In no particular order then, our top three cupcakes:

The Sweet Tooth Fairy – Strawberry Shortcake

I have a confession, whilst I love fresh strawberries, I almost never buy strawberry-flavoured products because they almost never taste like strawberries. Instead what you tend to get is a taste reminiscent of shampoo, bearing very little relation to the delicious fruit from which it supposedly comes. However, this cupcake make me eat my words. Delicious cake with a lovely vanilla flavour, and the frosting! Oh my. Absolutely delicious, wonderfully fruity and not at all too sweet, a common complaint amongst ones we did not like so much. Whilst all the cupcakes from this lovely shop were completely delicious (we did not have a complaint about any one cupcake!), this one stood out particularly.

Strawberry Shortcake

21 Cupcakes – Bacon Maple Vanilla Cupcake

Putting bacon in a cupcake can be a little controversial amongst tasters – you seem to either love the idea or hate it! However, this cupcake defied the expectations of several doubters, and emerged clearly as one of our favourites. The vanilla cake was beautifully fragrant and soft, whilst the maple and bacon combination came through clearly but managing not to overpower the whole cupcake. Possibly my favourite cupcake that we tasted, this cake recipe should be the standard text on how to use bacon in a cupcake.

Sprinkles Cupcakes – Chai Latte Cupcake

Sprinkles Cupcakes have the plainest presentation of any of the shops, but often this plain presentation hides a wonderful interior, and this particular cupcake shows the duckling becoming the swan. A non-descript brown exterior, with perfectly smooth icing provides a wonderful hit of coffee and associated spices, recalling perfectly its namesake drink. A more unusual flavour, but a delicious end result, and one I would happily eat again.

(Image taken from here)

And now, the final award, this time for best in show goes to…

The Sweet Tooth Fairy!

Really from the first bit of delicious cupcake there was no way that The Sweet Tooth Fairy could not have won this contest. Scoring top marks on all categories from storefront to taste, this shop was a pleasure to visit, and it will definitely be one to visit next time I am in the USA.