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Tuesday, August 31, 2010


What do you usually tip at restaurants? My Dad told me back in the day to leave a dollar for every seven dollars you spend, that's about 15%. These days I leave closer to 20%, based on the economy. I figure if I can't afford to tip well, I'm not going to go out and eat a good meal.

I used to work at Garcia's Mexican restaurant back in the day (many years ago) as a busser, and then I was promoted to a hostess. Ironically I made less money as a hostess, since we didn't get "tipped out." I should have gone into serving instead. I met some really nice people on that job. One of the servers, a flaming dude, was very friendly and always made it a point to invite me to after work activities at Pomeroy's (7th St./Missouri) where they have many beers on tap and great fries. I remember Luis and his brother Javier who taught me the fine art of putting the waxed paper in the bowl with a flair before adding the hot chips, and I fondly remember Mercedes "El Tigre" in the kitchen who had a huge goatee and I suspect, the hots for yours truly.

Who could blame him?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Duck & Decanter

Jason and I had a great lunch today at Duck and Decanter after the Tattoo Festival at the Arizona Biltmore (lots of skin, eye candy). Jason won a t-shirt for answering a trivia question correctly which is no surprise. He loves trivia and is a smartie-martie.

The Duck serves a sandwich called "The Banger." It is served hot; a delicious sausage on a french roll with spicy mustard. I have found my new sandwich. This is the best sandwich ever. You have to get one.

I forgot to order this with sauerkraut, which they do have. Next time...

Jason had a sammie with thinly sliced ham, apples, pine nuts and spinach on wheat bread. He let me try it and the combination of flavors was pretty tasty. I preferred my banger, however.

When in Central Phoenix, get yourself to Duck and Decanter for a yummy lunch. The a/c is also very cold, which some restaurants haven't seemed to master, surprisingly.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hop's at the Biltmore, Pop's, Lunt, Postino

Does anyone out there remember Hop's at the Biltmore? Back in the day my brother used to work there and they had the best beer. (he also worked a stint at Karsh's Bakery and brought home kikel and mondel bread mmmm all the time). By the way, Simply Bread is selling kikel and model bread now at AJ's Fine Foods. Good to know!

Also another place I think of from time to time was Pop's at Scottsdale Fashion mall. Their dinner rolls had amazing crust (they might have been C Steele?) and they had a lemon cake that was to die for. I think I cried when they closed. And then there was Lunt Avenue Marble Club that had an amazing thick crust pizza with crumbly Italian sausage and I suspect they used buffalo milk mozzarella because of the way it melted. Mmmm. Slice of Sicily makes a pie similar to Lunt but you have to order it 2 hours in advance.

I Hop's they brewed their own and I remember their blonde ale was especially refreshing and delicious. They also did great appetizers. One I remember in particular was a black bean spread served with little french bread "toasts" and a tomato tapenade. My brother told me the chunky tomato mixture was cooked slowly in the oven to make it more concentrated. I suspect it had rosemary in it, the flavor of the tomatoes with the black beans was so yummy.

Jason and I were reminiscing about Hop's last night over dinner at Manuel's and he remembered they had these amazing soft pretzels they served with a cheesy sauce. I remember recently seeing a Postino's menu online that said they are serving soft pretzels as an appetizer, with a cheese and I told him that we need to go and check this out, post haste. Another reason to go to Postino's is that they offer a board of bruschetta and a bottle of house wine for $20 on Mondays & Tuesdays after 8:00 pm. That is a major steal. The salami they use on their pesto and salami bruschetta is of really good quality, and the artichoke spread is delicious, as well as the cannelli bean spread - I think they are cannelli beans at least. Jason likes their brie and apples...I am not a fan of cheesy food (except for pizza) so they are all about him.

It is not unusual in my family to plan a meal while eating a good meal, so that's what happened last night; it reminded me of family holidays, often that take place at my aunt's. On Christmas she makes a chicken cacciatore with spaghetti, she is quite the chef. Then she makes cannoli for dessert (I helped her make the shells last year on her pizzelle maker, they had cinnamon in them and were very crispy). Typically when we have Christmas at my aunt's, we plan Easter at my Mom's and talk about the meal - never mind that it's several months away. We muse about a Honeybaked ham, rye bread and pasta salad with lots of veggies. Boy, that sounds good. That meal planning from the Hamilton gene, it didn't skip a generation when it comes to this kitchen wench.

Happy reminiscing/eating/planning your next meal.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thai Sugar Snap Salad - guest recipe

This arrived today from my friend Sharon. Thanks, Sharon! It looks like a super healthy yummy salad.

I'm going to make this, for sure.

Thai Sugar Snap Salad Serving Size : 6

1 pound Sugar Snap Peas -sliced diagonally

1/2 Cup carrots -- cut into strips

1/2 red pepper -- cut into bite-sized pieces

1 green onion --Optional

2 tablespoons Brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons lime peel

1 1/2 teaspoons chili oil

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts -- optional

In medium bowl, combine sugar snap peas, carrot strips,

bell pepper and green onion (can used dried chives) add brown sugar, lime juce Lime peel and oil.

Toss to coat cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. If desired just before serving, sprinkle with peanuts.

In case you're counting...

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 52 Calories;

trace Fat (0.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein;

11g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Manuel's Mexican Food

Remnants of a yummy dinner at Manuel's.

I went to Manuel's Mexican food tonight with my Mom, my brother Mike and Jason. It was so delicious! You can see what was left of our dinner... we plowed through it.

I had Manuel's machaca burrito. The meat is very juicy; the idea of a fat tortilla, shredded beef and salsa has been making my mouth water for the past few days.

My Mom and brother were really excited about an evening out. We're all economizing these days, so when we go out, it's special. My Mom is an excellent cook, but she did tell me about a recent batch of beans that didn't turn out the way she expected. Tonight she had a green corn tamale and beans. My brother had a taco and an enchilada and Jason had tacos and rice. Everyone came away happy. And we shared a cheese crisp (open).

I looked at their website and noticed they have $2.75 Coronas all day (every day) through Sept 30. That is always tempting...and Manuel's is also advertising "Fajita Monday" with all fajitas at $10.99. Sounds like a pretty good deal.

Salud to tasty eats at Manuel's!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Coffee lesson

The right stuff!

The Arizona Republic reported today that coffee prices are at a 12 year high. Hopefully that means you are making your java at home and saving a few buckaroos.

I like Pajaro coffee from Trader Joe's (see picture). I get it whole bean and grind it once a week and then brew it espresso style.

Grinders are pretty cheap, Target has them for $20 and I use a Mr. Coffee espresso maker that came from WalMart, also cheap, $30.

If anyone out there wants an espresso lesson, just let me know ( and I will give you an in-person tutorial. I promise, you won't blow yourself up. I was afraid the first few times, too.

Happy caffeinating.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pho Binh Minh and citizenship class

Odd looking, pungent Vietnamese fruit.

Roberto teaching civics at our citizenship workshop.

Disco balls?

We had a very successful citizenship class today (see pictures) with the help of our volunteers including Osvaldo, Veronica, Mercedes, Roberto, Chris and others (you know who you are). It is interesting that the room where we had our class has remnants of a former life...disco balls. I'm not sure what that means except maybe that we are very flexible where we have class and that there is potential for a happy hour with music afterwards.

My friend Chris came and taught with us today and then afterwards we went over to Pho Binh Minh for Vietnamese food. I do not have major knowledge of this type of cuisine except for the sandwiches that you get on french bread with pate and lunch meats (delicious). Chris schooled me a bit and recommended for the appetizer we have fresh spring rolls with shrimp, mint, cilantro and vermicelli (delicious) which came with a peanut dipping sauce. For the entree we both had a vermicelli salad with grilled pork, vegetables and fish sauce. The fish sauce comes on the side and you can stir chile paste into it (we did) and then you pour it over your salad, and, well, toss it, as it were. This is the most delicious salad, you simply must go get one. The pork is very succulent. In Vietnamese it is called Bun Thit Nuong, (rice noodle with grillled pork and vegetable served with fish sauce).

Sorry folks that there's no pictures today of lunch. We just inhaled it.

Afterwards, we walked around the same strip mall which had another Vietnamese restaurant/bakery and then there was a shop with Vietnamese foods. I spied a very strange looking fruit and took a picture. Chris said it is a "smelly fruit" which explained the pungent smell when we went inside the store. I was able to also find some tamarind candy which I enjoy very much and Chris got some fish sauce, soy sauce and plantains, so we both came away happy.

So, the next time you're in the mood for a tasty Vietnamese salad, head over to Pho Binh Minh.

Pho Binh Minh 4141 N. 35th Ave. Phoenix 602-358-8255

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Diablito time

Lunch is served.

Today around 11:00 it was time for a Diablito, so I stopped by La Reina Michoacana on 32nd St. just south of Thomas.

My diablito was sooo delicious today. It had mango, chamoy, asian peanuts, crushed ice, lime juice and a tamarind candy straw.

Lately I realize that this blog may appear to lack imagination, due to all of the posts about Mexican slushies. But, it's hard to take the Mexican slushie out of the girl, as it were.

I've decided some day I may retire and move to Mexico. But I will have to do extensive research on where to relocate, based on the quality of raspado makers there. This research may take some time, mind you...

Get yourself to La Reina Michoacana. Their fruit popsicles look delicious too! They have spicy mango, that's going to be the next one I try.

Reina Michoacana, 2601 North 32nd Street Phoenix, AZ 85008

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chamoyada time

The perfect lunch. A chamoyada!

Anytime of day is a good time for a chamoyada. Today it was noon since that's when Oasis Raspados opens.

There was almost a line out the door when I arrived (about 6 people in front of me) and that's a sign that it's really warm in Phoenix. I waited patiently until my turn to order. To my surprise there were no medium cups left, so I had to take a large.

A major sacrifice on the kitchen wench's part, mind you.

I'm about halfway through it so far. It has a lot of mango and is very spicy with chamoy and chili powder. A good way to (almost) wrap up the week.

Oasis Raspados, 1617 North 32nd Street, Phoenix,
(602) 267-9174

Finds at Trader Joe's and summer fruit

Nectarines, one of my favorite summer fruits.

Yummy salami and crackers.
Charcuterie anyone?
I called my Mom yesterday, telling her that I was going to Trader Joe's and did she want anything. She especially likes their orange sticks (covered with dark chocolate). As it turns out, they were out, but I did find her some mints with dark chocolate, which she happily accepted. She has a major sweet tooth for quality candy, as does this kitchen wench. There is a half of a snickers bar with almonds in my refrig begging for a bite.

Guess it's in the genes!

At Trader Joe's I also spotted a chianti salami that according to the label is "minimally processed" and has no artificial ingredients or preservatives. I'm very excited to start slicing this and serving it with the whole wheat crackers pictured, which are also available at Trader Joe's.

I'm missing their guindilla peppers, which were discontinued due to lack of interest. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that. How could people not realize how delicious these peppers are? So, I'm looking for a new guindilla pepper supplier. Might have to go to Oakville Grocery in Scottsdale to see if they have them. I know they do have Spanish chorizo, and someone there was recently quoted as saying they would hang Serrano hams from the ceiling if the health department would allow for it (apparently they won't). Sigh.

My Mom gifted me some nectarines last night (see picture) that smell delicious but they are not quite ripe. I'll leave them out a couple of days and enjoy them au natural. Or, maybe they will end up in a tart? Trader Joe's 20th St./Camelback in Phoenix and other locations Oakville Grocery at Scottsdale and Greenway

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Casa del Mariachi

Adriana with her hand painted dresses.

The bar at Casa del Mariachi.

The nice folks at Casa del Mariachi hosted our breakfast this morning at the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce meeting. I had some delicious bacon, a roll (sort of a creative blt if you will) and coffee.

The inside of this place is totally cool, there are murals - one I liked especially is behind the bar (see picture).

One of my fellow chamber members, Adriana Magdaleno works at Universal Flowers on 24th St. and Indian School. Not only does she make beautiful flower arrangements, she is now branching out into dresses that have hand painted flowers (see picture) and she also makes tuxedos for men. The most beautiful dresses! What a great creative outlet she has.

1420 N 24th St, Phoenix - (602) 275-8565 Casa Del Mariachi

2306 E. Indian School Rd, Phoenix - (602) 954-2658 Universal Flowers

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oregano chicken

Oregano chicken is tasty and easy to make.

I'm making oregano chicken for lunch today. This is an easy meal my aunt taught me how to make when I was a teen.

Just sprinkle oregano liberally over your chicken. I like the thighs since they are very juicy. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and bake for 1 hour uncovered. Baste a couple of times throughout the cooking process. You can also add a dash of red wine vinegar at the end of the cooking process, say the last 5 minutes.

You'll notice a deep reddish/purple drink to the left of the chicken. That's jamaica. Hibiscus flower drink. You gotta make this. Super refreshing in the summertime. Get your hibiscus flowers at Food City or a carnicerĂ­a. I put 5 dried flowers to 2 cups of liquid. Some people like sugar in this (most people I should say) but I drink it au natural.

You could say that this kitchen wench is sweet enough.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pizza at Mom's

Pizza a la Marilyn (my Mom's pizza).
A cute duck planter from Mom.

Tonight Jason and I went over to my Mom's and had pizza with her and my brother Mike. My Mom makes delicious pizza. Tonight's pies had pepperoni, marinara sauce, green peppers and purple onion.

We had the best dinner. Along with the pizza, I made a salad with romaine lettuce, carrots, celery, purple onion and a dijon vinaigrette dressing (sorry no picture on this one).

Afterwards Jason treated Mike and I to Dutch Brothers. We both had iced chai and Mike had a green tea. They have really tasty is so refreshing in the summer.

Recently Mom gifted me a duck planter that belonged to her grandfather. It had been given to him on Father's Day one year and it has been vacant for some time. Tonight I brought it over and she filled it with two cactus plans that she got at the dollar store. One is an aloe vera and I can't tell you the name of the other one. But they are both very cute and cheerful.

How is it that my Mom knew I needed a friendly duck planter? She knows we all go through rough patches in our lives, and simultaneously people we care about are going through their own rough patches. Our lives collide and then they may split. My Mom thinks that sometimes people aren't able to be in other people's lives due to circumstances, even though we may care for them a great deal, and I think she is right. She has a way of making sense of some things that just amazes me. She's very insightful and thoughtful.

I guess I'm toasting you here, Mom. Cheers! And...thanks!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

La Reyna Michoacana - diablito paradise

Reina Michoacana has all kinds of fruit popsicles, in Spanish known as "paletas."

There is a good selection of ice cream.

A diablito, or Mexican slushie, with mango.

I had to go get some car repairs today and on the way home I stopped at Oasis Raspados on McDowell and 32nd Street...but, it was closed! So, I went to my backup place, La Reina Michoacana right down the street just south of Thomas on 32nd Street.

At La Reina they make sandwiches (tortas) and they have ice cream, popsicles and raspados, or what I like to call Mexican slurpees.

I am having a diablito which is crushed ice, chili powder, your choice of fruit (mango for me), chamoy, lime juice, Asian peanuts, saladitos (salted, dried plums) and a "straw" tamarind candy. It is delicious and refreshing. It wakes up all of the tastebuds in your mouth since it is spicy, sweet and salty.

From the pictures you can see that La Reina is a good place to go in the summertime in Phoenix. And no lines! At least none today...

Reina Michoacana 2601 N 32nd St Phoenix, AZ 85008

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lone Star - what's for lunch

Leftovers from today's lunch at Lone Star.

My Aunt took me to Lone Star for lunch today. It's a great spot to grab a bite. We sat in the bar area and it was not crowded. Our waitress was very efficient and friendly.

Char had a burger with American cheese and bacon, with fries. Her burger looked pretty tasty.

I opted for a French dip sandwich- they call it something else though (don't remember). It comes with fries and a pretty kicky horseradish sauce.

A delicious and satisfying lunch. And I had leftovers!!!

Your sweet tooth

Helados Fruit popsicles are delicious and refreshing.
My favorites are jamaica, horchata, fresa and mango. They also have tamarind,
pepino con chile and others.

This post was inspired by an article in the about the high cost of artisan ice cream.

I'm a big fan of gelato, but I haven't gone to The Gelato Spot in along time, mostly because of the high cost. Mind you, the quality is first rate, but when I go I get a strawberry or coffee gelato shake, and it sets me back about 5 buckaroos.

Instant gratification is a hard thing to get over, but with the current economy, I am getting over it, as it were.

However, I do seem to make room in my budget for a chamoyada from Oasis Raspados about once a week at 4 bucks a pop. It's a meal, really...since it has fruit and peanuts, I guess that's how I justify it.

So... otherwise, how to curb one's sweet tooth? Try:

yogurt with fruit
a frozen snickers bar
cinnamon toast
Helados Mexico frozen fruit bars (Food City)
canned fruit

What do you enjoy to curb your sweet tooth? The kitchen wench wants to know...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Penne with puttanesca sauce

Dinner is served...

This is a great pasta sauce. Mmmmmm

I was trying to figure out a simple and tasty dish for dinner tonight and it dawned on me...I had everything except the canned tomatoes. So, I picked up a can of diced tomatoes today at Safeway. Somehow in the shopping process, I forgot garlic. Oh well, it's okay...

To the tomatoes I will add olive oil, a handful of black olives and a tablespoon of capers. And some basil from the freezer. This will cook quickly on the stovetop and serve it over penne. I'll boil two cups of penne (so there will be leftovers for tomorrow) for about 15 minutes.

I can't wait to eat. It's been awhile since I've had pasta.

Happy eating...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What's for breakfast

Princesas is a great movie. It goes well with breakfast on a lazy Sunday.

A big latte is the ticket. The scone (below) disappeared rather quickly. Where did it go?

One of my favorite breakfasts. A blueberry scone.

It is a lazy Sunday. It looks like there is laundry on the horizon and maybe some reading. I found a book at the library this week called Tijuana Dream, and I am excited to open it up.

I made a big latte this morning with a cinnamnon stick, and I'm enjoying it with a blueberry scone from AJ's Fine Foods. My favorite of their scones is the currant, but for some reason they don't always have them, so blueberry is my backup. Their scones are really crumbly and delicious.

While breakfasting, I'm watching Princesas, one of my favorite movies. Candela Pena (sorry I can't make the tilde on the n on my laptop) is a great actress. She was also in Torremolinos 73, which is very funny and a must see.'s the most important meal of the day. Don't skip it! Especially when you can have a yummy scone from AJ's.

Postino on Central

A board of bruschetta at Postino. Yummy.

If you have a few extra buckaroos in your pocket, you must have a dining experience at Postino. There are two locations, one near me on Campbell and 39th St. and one near Jason (my partner in crime for indie movies, dining, swimming and...) on Central Avenue in between Missouri and Camelback roads.

Last night we opted for Postino on Central. As it happened, we had a few extra buckaroos in our pockets. Lately we have been economizing, so when the opportunity for fine, delicious dining at Postino presented itself, we jumped on it.

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it here, but Jason is one of the funniest people I know. And super smart. He is very quick witted with a dry sense of humor. The last time we were at Postino we met someone in the parking lot who was singing JD Hayworth's praises. Jason said to this person, "Yeah, he was a great weatherman."

I digress.

We started with salads. I had a barbara salad which has field greens, beets, dried cherries, candied walnuts, fried leeks and grape tomatoes. I like this with their herb vinaigrette. I also order it with shaved chicken. It comes with a hearty walnut bread (ask for butter). You must try this salad. (Note: if you order this salad at the Central Avenue location, you have to tell them the ingredients because it is a concoction from one of their lovely and frequent patrons at their Campbell location and it isn't in the computer yet).

Jason had a raspberry chicken salad over field greens, and it was very creamy and tasty.

We also shared a board of bruschetta with salami/pesto, prosciutto and brie/apples. I had a glass of fruity tempranillo-garnacha wine from Spain (okay, I had two glasses) and he had a tropical tea that looked very refreshing.

The meal was simply amazing. The quality at Postino is first-rate, so you always know it is consistent and fresh.

To end our evening we opted to visit the Dutch Brothers just down the street at Central and Camelback. Jason had an iced chai and I had an iced latte. Mmmmmm.

Post Dutch Brothers we drove through the nearby Windsor Square neighborhood where I used to live as a girl. I pointed out my old home which he had never seen before. I also pointed out friends houses, my piano teacher and my babysitter's old homes. The neighborhood looks really good and if I had a few extra bucks I would snap up one of those houses. Then we drove through Jason's old neighborhood not far away and he showed me the home where he had lived. It was very pretty, in a great neighborhood near Bethany and 2nd Street. Some of the lots are quite large and the architecture of the homes in the area is stunning.

A tour of our respective pasts was a great way to cap off the evening.