February 28, 2010

New Mexico's first Restaurant Week starts today features cooking classes, discounts at restaurants in Santa Fe & Albuquerque

New Mexico Restaurant Week runs from February 28 through March 13
New Mexico Restaurant Week runs from February 28 through March 13
Today (February 28, 2010) premieres New Mexico's first Restaurant Week. The celebration of food includes cooking classes, wine tastings and over 60 restaurants with discount prix-fixe dinners. Restaurant Week runs through March 6th  in Santa Fe then moves to Albuquerque from March 7th to 13th.
Held at various restaurants and the Santa Fe School of Cooking, the classes range in price from free (“The Art of Making Caesar Salad” at Osteria d’Assisi in Santa Fe) to $35 (“Foods of the Americas” at Epazote Restaurant in Santa Fe).
A successful event in cities around the U.S., New Mexico Restaurant Week is designed to boost the economy during the slow season and give diners the opportunity to try new restaurants at a discounted price. More than 60 restaurants in Santa Fe and Albuquerque are offering three-course, prix-fixe dinners priced at just $25 per person, $25 for two, or $40 per person at a few fine-dining restaurants.
Several hotels are featuring Restaurant Week packages to attract both out-of-town visitors and locals looking for a culinary “stay-cation.” The list includes El Corazon Residences, El Rey Inn, Encantado Resort & Spa, Hotel Santa Fe, The Inn & Spa at Loretto and the Santa Fe Sage Inn in Santa Fe; and the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa and Hotel Andaluz in the Albuquerque area.
Numbers are limited, so interested people are urged to reserve their spots now or find out more info at www.nmrestaurantweek.com. While there you can also can sign up for the Restaurant Week Sweepstakes. Prizes include hotel-and-dinner packages at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa and the Inn and Spa at Loretto, as well as dinner for two at several restaurants, redeemable after Restaurant Week.
New Mexico Restaurant Week features the following restaurants:

Santa Fe:
  • ¡A la Mesa!
  • Amavi
  • Amaya at Hotel Santa Fe
  • Andiamo
  • Blue Corn Café (1)
  • Blue Corn Café (2)
  • Cowgirl BBQ
  • Dinner for Two
  • El Meson
  • Epazote
  • Flying Star Cafe
  • Fuego! at La Posada
  • Galisteo Bistro
  • Geronimo
  • Joe’s Diner
  • La Boca
  • La Casa Sena
  • La Plazuela
  • Luminaria at the Inn at Loretto
  • Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen
  • Milagro 139
  • O’Keeffe Cafe
  • Osteria d’Assisi
  • Pranzo
  • Rio Chama
  • Ristra
  • Rooftop Pizzeria
  • Santa Fe Bar & Grill
  • San Francisco Street Bar & Grill
  • Sleeping Dog Tavern
  • Terra at Encantado
  • The Compound
  • The Old House
  • The Ore House
  • The Railyard Restaurant
  • Trattoria Nostrani
  • Vanessie
  • Vinaigrette
  • Ze French Bistro
  • Zia
  • Artichoke Café
  • Brasserie La Provence
  • Casa Vieja
  • Chama River Brewing Company
  • Corn Maiden at Tamaya Resort
  • El Pinto
  • Flying Star Cafe – Downtown
  • IPCC Harvest Pueblo Cafe
  • Lucia at Hotel Andaluz
  • McGrath’s at the Hyatt Regency
  • Pars Cuisine
  • Prairie Star at Santa Ana Golf Course
  • Sandiago’s Mexican Grill on Sandia Peak
  • Savoy
  • Scalo
  • Seasons Rotisserie & Grill
  • Slate Street Cafe
  • St. Clair Winery & Bistro
  • Trombino’s Bistro Italiano
  • Zea Rotisserie & Grill
  • Zinc Wine Bar & Bistro

February 18, 2010

Flagstaff Tastecasters: Big Foot BBQ - The sides and dessert

Bigfoot's Sweet Potato Fries
Not to be left out are Bigfoot's tasty sides.... as our tastecasting event continues.

You may not have ventured far from the fries on the sides menu here. I understand. I am such a fan of the fried okra (best in town), the sweet potato fries (seasoned with cinnamon and sugar) and the garlic romano fries there's never been much of a reason to get something else. But let me tell you - there's reason! It's called mashed sweet tasters! They're worth of the exclamation points for sure. Each bite is bursting with flavor. Buttery goodness and sweetness. You almost forget they're a veggie. Don't tell the kids. Tell them it's dessert. They're going to believe you because these bad boys taste like a treat.
The homemade Mac Salad
Another homemade item - the Mac Salad. Not sure why it's called a mac salad there's no boring macaroni in this one.  It's a tasty combo that tastes a lot like the potato salad (also a homemade side served up here).

Another freshly made side -in fact it's made several times everyday - the cole slaw. Crispy, light and fresh. Nothing old and soggy here!

I could just eat the veggie plate of sides here I think. Mmm mmm good!

While not really a side - I couldn't not mention the Apple Berry Cobbler that wrapped up our meal tonight. Made with fresh fruit, it was sweet and simple goodness. You can get it with or without ice cream everyday for just $1.99 per serving. Nice way to end the meal anyday!

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Flagstaff Tastecasters - Big Foot BBQ - The main course

Mini versions of the Smokin Bulldawg made for this event

Continuing our Bigfoot BBQ tastecasting event... the main course has made its way to our plates....

First up.... Let's talk sauce! Bigfoot makes their own every other day from scratch. And it shows. It's the base that barbeque joints are built on. And Big Foot passes the taste test with flying colors. There's a hint of cloves in there but that's the only sauce secret revealed tonight.

Now onto the "Truckstop Creations" of the Smokin Bulldawg and Junkyard Dawg. This is a section of Bigfoot's menu that gets overlooked too often but no more. These are adult dawgs that bring it. They're filling stuff. The Smokin Bulldawg is a smoked Andouille sausage topped with burnt ends (that's the good stuff from the brisket!) Plus onions sauce and cheese. This is a must get!! If you're a pulled pork die hard try the Junkyard Dawg with a big ol 1/4 pound spicy Louisiana hot link with the pulled pork and big foots homemade coleslaw (which by the way they make several time a day fresh!)

Next the straight up meats.... last to the table but tops on taste are Bigfoot's ribs. They're peeled, trimmed, rubbed, smoked, roasted, grilled, glazed and great. The meat is juicy and falls off the bone as all good ribs should. These are St Louis style cut down pork spare ribs. The Bigfoot guys say they like these better than baby back ribs because they're meatier and juicier.

The pulled barbequed pork, chicken and beef are all hickory smoked here in the basement in electric smokers (the ribs and sausages are too). These could be juicier, especially the beef which I find a bit dry. I think its also missing the taste of fire. While the smoke flavor is big, these trained Texas-born BBQ lover taste buds think the missing flame leads to missing taste. The only downside to Big Foot really for me is this absence of fire. I asked Colby (one of the owners) about that and he said that a big smokehouse is something he wants if they ever open another location. I'd love to see that! But as long as they're in the basement - there's no barbeque fire pits allowed here, which is understandable. Though I will say, I love this location and the atmosphere in Bigfoot. It's always comfortable and welcoming. My children love coming here too thanks to the laid back decor. They always spot something new and cool to point out.

Andouille corndogs
We also got a chance to try some of the special Mardi Gras menu items not regularly on the regular menu... Including alligator sausage (interesting and spicey and no nothing like chicken), andouille corndogs (surprising good and something I'd love to see added permanently to the menu) inspired by a Emeril Lagasse recipe and Boudin sausage. Look for these types of specials and special events from Bigfoot on their Facebook page and on Twitter.

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Flagstaff Tastecasters: Big Foot BBQ - Appetizers

Jazz Fest Crawfish Bread
Now come the apps... Chili cheese fries, BBQ nachos and a new item for special occasions: Jazz Fest Crawfish Bread.
The chili cheese fries take the classic fries Bigfoot is beloved for then add their red chili. Full of flavor and would be good with a beer to share with friends.
The BBQ Nachos were next up. Jalepenos, cheese and sauce and in this instance pulled pork with their signature sauce. You can also get the nachos with chicken or beef.
Finally in the apps course- a specialty item they came up with for Mardi Gras: Jazz Fest Crawfish Bread which is much like an empanada filled with spicy crawdaddy. This is something I'd like to see permanently make its way onto the menu. Spicy, moist, flavorful crawfish meat. True Louisiana flavors.
Up next the meats and highlights from the "Truck Stop Creations" part of the menu....
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Flagstaff Tastecasters: Big Foot BBQ

Bigfoot's pulled beef brisket
Tonight's live tastecasting event comes to you from Big Foot BBQ - www.bigfootbbq.com
You can follow all the tastecasting talk tonight on www.twitter.com/angeleoutwest and at #tastecasters
Tonight we start off with the tasty sweet tea. Its true southern style brewed with the sugar just the way I like it.
Coming up... stay tuned for the goods.

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February 15, 2010

Diablo Burger in Flagstaff update (February 2010)

Diablo Burger's basket of fries with pesto for dipping
Flagstaff's eco-friendly burger joint Diablo Burger has been satisfying locals and tourists alike for almost a year now. I took my family back today (February 15, 2010) to see how they compare to when they first opened. (Read my original report from March 4, 2009- during their opening week- HERE.) The good news - the food is still quite tasty, fresh and enjoyable.

Ziggy Stardust 3 topping burger & fries
Over the last year prices have gone up some... fries now being $4.50 for a basket (was $4.25), the Monk burger (the basic burger and the cheapest one) now being $7.50 (was $6.50 when they opened). They now also charge 50 cents for a side of their dipping sauces if you want that with the fries that come with your burger though it doesn't say that anywhere on the menu nor did the guy taking our order tell us. We found out looking at our receipt. That's one of my pet peeves - restaurants charging for small extras without saying they do upfront. Though your choice of sauce still comes with a regular order of fries.
Those fries are still GOOD stuff! Seasoned with fresh herbs, double cooked in peanut oil. Among the best ones in town. YUM!
The burgers are smaller than last year, at least on this visit. My husband specifically commented that last year the burger could barely fit in his mouth because it was so thick, though it was still a small patty in width. This visit -no prob with fitting in his mouth- it wasn't that thick at all. They still taste uber fresh and are satisfying to the taste buds but the burger's just not big enough for someone like my hubby even though it comes with a side of fries. This is the biggest disappointment for a real burger lover. He wants to eat what he enjoys and the DB burgers are tasty but not enough. And at $9 or so a pop he wants more burger to feast on. Sidenote: Diablo is now branding their english muffin buns with a cool "db" logo (see photo).
Tomato soup with cilantro and cream
No veggie burger has made it to the menu though it is still being promised. There's still no Coke or Pepsi as its not in line with their principals but it would taste SO good with those fries.
They're also not serving Arizona beers. Still the ones from Cali- they may be tasty but that's still not in line with the "local" focus, and there are some great beers made in Arizona.
I got the soup of the day as well as fries on my visit today - a tomato soup with cilantro and cream. Spicy and flavorful. But not creamy at all. Tasted freshly made, as you'd expect from Diablo. Though I think I'd go for the burger over this particular soup.
DB's kids' Junior Marilyn burger

Diablo now has a nice kids menu - $4.50 for a 1/2 size burger and fries. Add 50 cents for cheese on that. Or kids can get a junior grilled cheese and fries for $4.75. These kid-sized burgers are the perfect size for kids and all served well done.
Diablo Burger has added some super cool outdoor picnic tables with umbrellas. Can't wait to sit on those (and bring along a can of Coke, shhh don't tell) when it warms up! They've also added some great high chairs that attach to the bar-height table tops- good news for parents. My baby approved of those- see photo below.
New baby seats

All in all - Diablo Burger is still great stuff with a cool atmosphere despite those few issues I have. You can feel good about dining here with their focus on fresh eco-local foods. Read my review from last year for more details about all the rest of the stuff on their menu.

February 8, 2010

Dara Thai Flagstaff, Arizona (includes menu)

Dara Thai
14 South San Francisco Street
(928) 774-0047
check out the lunch menu (as of February 5, 2010) at the bottom of this story

Dara Thai is a popular Flagstaff Asian eatery. It has a pleasant atmosphere with colorfully painted walls, some adorned with murals and old photos.
On street parking can be difficult to find in front of the building on busy San Francisco but you can park around the corner. Though walking on the snow and ice covered sidewalks on the side streets can be a challenge.
While many people have recommended trying Dara I only recently went their for lunch, where you seat yourself and wait for service. We waited at least five minutes for our waitress to come bring us menus and it wasn't busy at all.
Their lunch specials are fairly priced and in line with other Thai food in town and come with soup or salad.
The cucumber chicken soup is quite different. It's chicken broth infused with cucumber plus big chunks of chicken and cucumbers. It's a little salty but pretty good tasting. I'd opt for it over the salad, which is a nice size but the dressing is really peanuty.
I came to Dara with a Thai food virgin. He's been hesitant to try Thai food as he only recently began to enjoy Chinese food. (What can I say he's from the Midwest.) He went with simple on this visit - sweet and sour pork. He compared his experience with the Chinese food cousin of sweet and sour - they practically tasted the same he said only this was a touch more rich in flavor and the breading was light and crispy. I found the sauce very sweet with an exotic touch compared to Chinese sweet and sour pork. Though I am not a big fan of sweet and sour, Chinese or Thai. There's many other better things to be found in both food varieties.
I ordered my standard for trying a new Thai restaurant: Chicken Pad Thai. It was full of rich flavors. The chicken moist, tender and was imbued with the spices not just tossed in with the noodles. I got the medium spiciness and my lips felt warm for quite a bit afterward. But there wasn't any burn while eating it. Just a nice amount of flavor. It was quite tasty and I was full and satisfied until dinner time.
All in all, I found Dara Thai much better than Pato Thai, which is just down the street. But I still think Swaddee Thai is the best Thai in town.

February 5, 2010

Poll: What is the best Asian restaurant in Flagstaff, AZ?

Where do you like to go in Flagstaff when you're in the mood for Asian food... whether it's Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Sushi?

Thanks for casting your vote. Be sure to visit OutWestFoodReview.com for all of your restaurant questions!

February 4, 2010

Pesto Brothers Tastecasting: Dessert- An esspresso panna cotta with Arizona Stronghold's Dayden Rose

The final course of the evening... Espresso panna cotta with roasted banana sauce paired with Arizona Stronghold Dayden Rose pink wine. Yes, pink not rose' (that's what their label says).
The Dayden Rose at first "bite" hints of strawberry. A dessert wine for sure and probably my least favorite of the evening.
The espresso panna cotta is creaminess infused with coffee flavor. A must-have to finish the evening. Though I wouldn't go for the banana sauce with it next time.

All in all, a fabulous evening and great first event of the Flagstaff Tastecasters. And there's many more to come - about once per month. You can follow my comments on these live food events here at outwestfoodreview.com or on twitter @angeleoutwest and #tastecasters. Thanks to Pesto Brothers for including us in their fabulous wine dinner event. It was fun, informative and a treat for the tastebuds - both with the wines and the food.

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Pesto Brothers Tastecasting: The main course

Now we're at the main course. Spiedini of marinated sirloin on a saffron and red pepper risotto fritter with a braised spaghetti squash paired with Page Wine Cellars Vino del Barrio red (produced just south of Sedona.)
The steak is gently marinated though could be more tender. The spaghetti squash is tasty and mellow. The risotto fritter is moist and a nice compliment to the steak.
The Vino del Barrio was average for me but a fellow tastecaster who loves pino nior wines says this is her favorite of the evening. Read about this wine at pagewinecellars.com.
This course was followed by a surprise tasting of Merkin Vineyards' Chupacabra. A higher end wine with legs, this one hints at myth and mystery as its name evokes. Find out more about El Chupacabra at caduceus.org.
Dessert to come...

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Pesto Brothers Tastecasting: Course 2- Duck Ravioli and AZ Stronghold Mangus red wine

Course two at the wine dinner moves on to Pesto Brothers' seared duck ravioli with walnut herb pesto and shaved manchego paired with Arizona Stronghold's Mangus.
Appropriately so, the pesto is so delicious. Deep, earthy, rich yet not too heavy to hide the flavors of the cheese and ravioli. I don't know that I would have tried this off the menu randomly if not part of this event but I would have lost out. This is an item I'd order again for sure.
The Mangus is rich, deep almost chocolatey in smoothness. I've not tasted a red wine I like this much before. It could be the pairing. I'm willing to try it again alone to make sure. The flavor says try me with spaghetti or a calzone.
Next up...the main course....

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Pesto Brothers Tastecasting: Arizona Stronghold's Tazi white wine

The first sampling of the night: "Tazi" by Arizona Stonghold (an AZ winery based in Cochise County). It's crisp, woodsy with a grasp of the earth expressed in the aroma.
The makers say their wines are about "the place" more than the grape. Their philosophy is that the earth should be captured in each sip. And indeed you can almost "see" the winery when the Tazi passes over the taste buds. You can find out more about the wine at azstronghold.com.
It's paired with Chef Richards' grilled bruschetta with warm tallegio, house-made sweet onion jam, imported prosciutto and reduced balsamic. A perfect flavor combination as the sweetness of the onion jam and balsamic compliment the richness of the wine.
This is coming to you live from Pesto Brothers. More as the meal continues.

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Pato Thai in Flagstaff (includes menu)

Pato Thai
104 North San Francisco Street
Flagstaff, AZ
menu at: patothai.com

Located adjacent to Hotel Monte Vista, Pato Thai is a simple restaurant with a pleasant enough atmosphere in a good location for downtown wandering. I stopped in with my children while enjoying a walk around downtown this week.
The menu is pretty traditional with specials at lunch starting at $6.95. The lunch specials include an appetizer (2 fried wontons) and very small not too exciting salad. You can check out the full menu for lunch and dinner HERE.
I ordered the Pad Thai with chicken - a classic by which I like to compare all Thai food. The chicken was dry and bland but the flavor of noodles and sauce was sweet and quite good. There was lots of chicken in the dish which was nice to see. The dish was plentiful overall, enough to take home for a snack later.
The service was alright, like the food, but nothing to write home about.
Parents and folks who use a wheelchair (or have trouble with stairs) take note - there are no bathrooms in the restaurant. You must go through a door into the hotel, up stairs into a very narrow women's restrooms. Where, by the way, there's no baby changer. Pato is not too kid friendly overall but they do have high chairs.
All in all, Pato is a decent place but you'll be much happier walking literally around the corner to Swaddee Thai instead.
Here's a look at their menu as of July 2010:

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