September 18, 2010

Yummy dessert spots in Flagstaff, Arizona

"Life's short, eat dessert first"
By Angele Sionna

Life's short, eat dessert first… it’s been said a million times before and will be said a million more because the sweet wrap up to your meal can be just about the ultimate in food satisfaction. Whether it’s hot and gooey or just melts in your mouth from the delicate construction of fine fruits and sugar blended by an artisan of delectables, a good dessert can put a smile on your mouth and make your day. Here are some great Flagstaff spots that you should go ahead and consider ordering dessert before the rest of your meal…

The Cottage Place Restaurant
126 W. Cottage
Flambé is the word of choice at the Cottage Place. These desserts have a tableside presentation involving fire. It's just hard to beat and doesn't hurt that these desserts are delightfully fresh and satisfying! The other treats here also have as good of taste as they have presentation, but I'd expect no less from Cottage Place’s fine chef Frank Branham. They truly have the art of cooking mastered for every course.

Josephine’s Modern American Bistro
503 N Humphreys St
This is where I go for crème brûlée. It’s, well, a cup of awesome! I've been known to go to Josephine’s just to have dessert and coffee out under the stars on the patio, an enchanting atmosphere to relax in and for your taste buds. Other nectarous treats to enjoy here include a rich and luscious Mascarpone Chocolate Mousse Tiramisu.

Cafe Daily Fare
408 E. Route 66 (behind the Babbitt used car lot, 1/2 block east of Elden St)
Café Daily Fare is a nice spot to grab lunch away from the hussle and bussle of downtown without going too far at all. Desserts here range from cookies and cupcakes (Belgian chocolate, lemon poppy, carrot raisin walnut, and “pineapple upside down cake” flavors) to crème brûlée, and bourbon chocolate pecan tarts. They even will make birthday cakes and deliver them to students at NAU (or anyone else anywhere in town) to make your special one’s special day a little sweeter.

Wildflower Bread Company
530 East Piccadilly Drive (at Butler & Lone Tree)
If you haven't somehow filled up on Wildflower’s salads and sandwiches, they have quite an assortment of sweet treats to indulge in. My fav - the Lemon Coconut Torte. It is, as the menu calls it, "scrumptious." It's a white cake layered with a light and airy lemon mousse and topped with coconut and a whipped topping. A little happy in every bite. Perfect for a relaxing summer night with a cup of coffee out on the patio. For you chocolate lovers, try the Ultimate Chocolate Cake. It is rich yet still some how airy. It is a rich chocolate cake filled with a decadent chocolate mousse covered in a dark chocolate ganache.

Beaver Street Brewery
11 S. Beaver St.
You haven’t experienced all Beaver Street has to offer until you’ve had their Apple-Ginger Stout cake. This little gem is made with gingerbread cake, apples, spices, and Beaver Street’s own R&R Oatmeal Stout. It's served warm, drowned in a thin and not overpowering caramel sauce and fresh whip cream. Yum! This could be the most unique twist to gingerbread yet. Good anytime of the year, but especially great on a cold winter day with fresh snow on the ground. Still, that doesn’t stop me from ordering it while sitting on the sunny patio.

Sugar Mamas
At the East Flagstaff Wednesday Community Market (St Pius Catholic Church Parking Lot, 2257 E. Cedar Ave.)
These sweet-toothed ladies don't have a storefront yet (though they will coming up in November). Right now you can find their sweet goodies at the Wednesday Flagstaff Community Market (open from 4-7pm). Don’t miss the toffee brownies. (Mmm.) The toffee chips and caramel are ooey gooey with a crunch that tastes so great with the chocolately brownie underneath. Their specialties also include chocolate macaroons, key lime tartlets, cupcakes, strawberry cheesecake squares, lemon zucchini scones, pies and cookies.

Macy's European Coffeehouse, Bakery & Vegetarian Restaurant
14 South Beaver Street
Macy’s has been a Flagstaff must for coffee since 1980, but if you’ve never tried their sweet treats you’re missing out. Their pièce de résistance are the chocolate chip cookies, made with a recipe from one of the chefs’ moms. But their peanut butter cookies melt in your mouth and are not to be missed too! Of course the biscotti and other breakfast treats make for a yummy sweet snack with a coffee or dessert after lunch.

(This article was originally written by me for Flagstaff Live!)

September 9, 2010

A look at all of Flagstaff's Thai restaurants

There’s something exotic about the foods you find at Thai restaurants. You almost feel special as you savor each of the flavors hitting your taste buds, like someone has just invented and hand crafted this delicacy just for you to enjoy. That's the beauty of Thai food and its combinations of edible aromas from curries with tumeric and coconut to sweet and spicy noodle dishes and still others flavored by limes, lemon grass, peanuts, hot chilis or mint. We're lucky here in Flagstaff, of all places, to have so many top quality Thai restaurants to enjoy. Take a tour around town of these fine eateries....

Swaddee Thai
115 E. Aspen Ave.
Swaddee is at the top of my list for Thai, especially their interpretation of the classic pad Thai with chicken. The number three heat level is perfection bringing together sweet, tangy and spicy in each bite. If you’re new to Thai food, the pad Thai is a great starting dish, it’s Thailand’s national noodle dish afterall, and Swaddee is the place to try a superlative example of it.  Pad Thai has wide noodles with a meat, bean sprouts and egg tossed in a sweet and sour sauce topped with ground peanuts. Other entrees to try: Pad Won Sen with its transparent noodles stir fried with your choice of meat, egg and veggies and Thai Barbecued Chicken prepared with Thai spices, coconut milk and a hot and sour sauce. The atmosphere here is relaxed and inviting as you sit back in the big booths awaiting your pleasure. The lunch specials are an added bonus. For about $8 you get a small salad, mini egg roll, steamed rice (except noodle dishes) and your choice of a chicken, beef, pork, or tofu entrée. Those include red, green, or yellow curry, pad Thai and others. Full menu details are on their website.

Little Thai Kitchen
1051 S Milton
For twelve years, Little Thai Kitchen has been serving up delightfully aromatic dishes with friendly service tucked in a teeny tiny yet quaint feeling spot big enough to serve about 20 people elbow to elbow. The dishes here are on the smaller side and the meat portions aren’t always plentiful. But the food is all carefully prepared and enjoyable. Dishes have some of the coolest names in town like The Evil Princess of a Wild Jungle, which by the way is a highly recommended entrée of chicken, mushrooms, herbs and spices bathed in a creamy coconut sauce. Others of note: Cashew Gai, Gang Kiew Wan, Southern Fried Rice, Ginger Fish and Tiger Rolls. Entrees come with a small salad as an appetizer, which has the best peanut dressing in town. They have the same menu for lunch and dinner, no lunch specials.

Dara Thai
14 S San Francisco Str
This popular Flagstaff eatery has a pleasant, almost romantic atmosphere with colorfully painted walls, some adorned with murals and old photos. Their lunch specials are fairly priced in line with other Thai food in town and come with soup or salad. Here I’d opt for the cucumber chicken soup. Its chicken broth is infused with cucumber plus big chunks of chicken and cucumbers. Dara’s dishes are imbued with rich flavors through and through. Try Tofu Rhad Prik –fried tofu chunks with red curry, bamboo shoots, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers, the Tropical Heatwave with your choice of meat, green curry, veggies all covered in a coconut cream sauce, or classic pad Thai. The medium spiciness leaves lips tingling for a while after your meal which is a nice reminder of the lovely meal you just ate.

Bangkok Thai
2112 N 4th Street
Bangkok Thai is an unassuming cozy restaurant with a pleasing and relaxing grass green, black and white color palate, though you’d never guess from the outside as you drive up to the strip mall that houses it. The bustling lunch crowd is a reassuring sign when you walk in. The staff is friendly and attentive. Lunch specials range from $6.50 to $9 and feature a salad with your entrée. The pad Thai here is sweet and mellow with little bits of a jazzy spiciness that ring in every few bites. Not a lot of chicken but what is in there tastes good. Others to try: Panang, garlic shrimp and the Jungle Tofu with fried tofu in coconut milk, fresh lemongrass, straw mushrooms and Thai spices.

Pato Thai
104 N San Francisco St
Located adjacent to Hotel Monte Vista, Pato Thai is a simple restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere in a good location for downtown wandering. The menu is traditional with specials at lunch starting at $6.95 including an appetizer of fried wontons and small salad. Dishes here are plentiful with nice meat portions. Spicy is something they understand, so consider dialing down a notch from your normal Thai heat level. Dishes to try here: Panang, special pineapple fried rice and, of course, pad Thai, though I find the chicken in the pad Thai here a bit dry but the noodles and sauce are delightful.

September 3, 2010

Where to find great enchiladas in Flagstaff, Arizona

Cafe Daily Fare's gourmet chicken enchiladas
You’ve probably been enjoying these tasty staples at Mexican restaurants for years, but did you know the word “enchiladas” means "filled with chili.” The word enchilada first appeared in print at the end of the 19th century.  The original version of enchiladas were more like the stacked enchiladas you may have eaten at a Mexican restaurant in New Mexico - stacked in layers with a fried egg on top. Modern enchiladas are a hearty meal and perennial Mexican restaurant favorite. Here’s a look at some of Flagstaff’s most noteworthy…

Las Gorditas Mexican Restaurant
2900 N West St, Flagstaff AZ (just south of Cedar in a small shopping center)
Las Gorditas has some of the very best enchiladas in town. They serve Jalisco-style food, all recipes of Mom Santana or recipes passed down for generations in her family. The red sauce is flavorful but not spicy. They're a super bargain at $4.99 for two cheese enchiladas with rice and beans both at lunch and dinnertime. And they're mouthwatering, as are the pork. Be warned, you may become addicted at one bite and be coming back here all of the time.

MartAnne's Burrito Palace
10 N San Francisco
“The House That Chilaquiles Built" also serves a mean enchilada. Traditional, super filling and spicy describes everything at MartAnne's and the enchiladas are no different. You can even get one for breakfast if you want with a big ol fried egg on top (like the Jerry with pork and green chile). And of course everything here is made with love by the hands of owner-chef Anne Martinez, who you'll find working in the kitchen whenever they're open. Give her a wave, a big thanks and a good tip for your delicious enchiladas, if you can break yourself away from the chilaquiles, that is.

Cafe Daily Fare
408 E. Route 66 (behind the Babbitt used car lot, 1/2 block east of Elden St)
The eclectic Café Daily Fare serves gourmet enchiladas as part of the "Chef's Playground" part of the menu, which means they make a showing occasionally, though you can always buy them by the pan to serve at a dinner or office party. You’ll find spinach, achiote chicken or ancho pork on the menu. The chicken enchiladas are delightfully different from any other enchiladas in town. These smoky, sweet and spicy bad boys are bursting with flavor, topped with a little cotija cheese and seeds along with a house-made roasted red pepper salsa. They leave your mouth warm and wanting more.

Salsa Brava
2220 E Route 66 (at Santa Fe)
The beloved Salsa Brava has quite a selection of enchiladas on the menu. Sour Creme and Chicken, spinach or Enchiladas de Cameron (shrimp) are all topped with a yummy cilantro cream sauce. They also have unique Portobello and Spinach enchiladas with grilled portobellos mixed with spinach and cheeses topped with a red chili sauce. Or you can go traditional with cheese, pork, beef and chicken enchiladas. You can’t go wrong with Salsa Brava’s classic cheese enchiladas with a little homemade salsa on top.

La Fonda
1900 N 2nd St (Just north of Route 66)
One of the best lunch specials in town revolves around the enchiladas at this locals favorite restaurant: two cheese enchiladas, rice, beans, a soda and a sopapilla al for $7.50. They’re simple and delish. La Fonda also has several other enchiladas any time of day to choose from including chicken, shredded or gowned beef in red or green sauce as well as carnitas enchiladas.

Casa Bonita
1551 S Milton (across from Target)
Try Casa Bonita’s Camaron (shrimp) enchiladas with tomatoes, onions and cilantro or Enchiladas de Espinacas (spinach) with fresh sautéed spinach, tomatoes and onions, both smothered with a creamy sauce. They also serve up what they call Enchiladas Deluxe which are your choice of enchilada topped with green salsa, lettuce, guac, sour creme, tomatoes and onions. I love these extra toppings! Other house specialties include Enchiladas de Jaiba which have crab meat topped with a special tomatillo sauce and sour creme and Enchiladas Suizas, which are traditional enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce and sour creme on top.

Tacos Los Altos de Jalisco
3650 E Route 66 (off of Fanning Dr)
This little drive-thru (or small sit-down) restaurant serves up a mean cheese enchilada. It is smothered in a red chili gravy and topped with a bit of lettuce and tomato. These aren't spicy, just a mouthful of flavor. Tacos Los Altos also has shrimp, beef and chicken enchiladas.

Los Altenos Restaurant
1481 S Milton (Near Cheba Hut)
Grab a bunch of napkins before you bite into Los Altenos' enchiladas. These are served up in an almost soupy state smothered in a ton of chili sauce and melted cheese. They don't skimp on the meat either. You can order two or three cheese, chicken or beef enchiladas with rice and beans for $6 to $7.

221 E Cedar Ave
Simple, fast, cheap and gigantic describes Poliberto's enchiladas. Here I'd go for the green chicken enchiladas. They are overstuffed with shredded chicken (but no melted cheese anywhere in sight), lightly topped with a thick green sauce that is spicy with a great aftertaste. The order of two comes in at $4. Poliberto's also has cheese, beef and chicken enchiladas topped with a milder red sauce.

(This was originally written by me for Flagstaff Live!)

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