Saturday, July 28, 2007
The actual day of our anniversary was low-key due to small paychecks from being on vacation. I sure miss the days when I actually had PAID vacation. It's been so long, it's hard to remember. Soon, though, I will have been at my job for a year and I'll finally have one week. Woohoo - a whole week. But, I digress. Anyway, I worked late on Wednesday (no shocker there) and then stopped and got Tim a little gift and headed home. He had made me some homemade devil's food cupcakes and got me a candy bar. I had bought him a candy bar and a Transformer. I always buy him action figures for special occasions - it's an inside joke. I got home and made dinner (not even a special dinner) and we had cupcakes. Pretty low-key, but it was the middle of the week and I've been working like a dog lately and we decided to wait until a later date to celebrate.
We always go out to eat on Friday nights so Tim asked where I wanted to go. Since I've been in Phoenix, I'd always heard that Durant's was not to be missed and it had been in Phoenix for more than 50 years. Durant's is essentially a steakhouse, though, and I wasn't sure if Tim would want to go. He's not a steak guy (crazy), although there's usually some chicken or seafood he would like on the menu. It's not cheap, but not expensive, either, so we thought it would be great to give it a try. We made reservations for 7:30 and set off for downtown.
When you arrive, you park in the back of the restaurant and you enter through the back door, which takes you through the kitchen. When you walk in the back door you are slammed with about a million wonderful smells. As you open the door to the kitchen, there is a dining room on your right and one on the left, as well as a bar. The wait staff is all dressed in tuxes with either red or black bow ties. We were seated at a table in the middle of the room. The walls are dark wood and crushed red velvet wallpaper and the booths are red and all the tables are dark wood. They said it's a true "mafia" experience. In fact, if you're on your cell phone in the dining room, they send six or seven of the wait staff over to "strong arm" you until you get off your phone. Tim ordered iced tea and I stuck with water. As we looked over the menus, our server brought over a small plate with some vegetables and some dip on it. There were carrots, celery, green onions and olives on the plate, along with some ice cubes to keep the veggies cold and crisp and they were definitely both. The dip was almost like a ranch, but it had a bit of a kick to it. It was very good, and I loved the ice on the plate - it was a small thing, but a very nice touch. When we finished, we were ready to order. All of the entrees come with a choice of soup or salad and a choice of starch. I had my heart set on the filet mignon and Tim wanted to try the Chicken Cordon Bleu. I got mine with a Caesar salad and sweet potato fries, which weren't on the menu. As a side note, I discovered sweet potato fries at Delux (a gourmet burger place here in Phoenix) a couple years ago and have been in love with them ever since. I had planned on getting a baked potato but when I heard sweet potato fries, I was all over it! Tim got his meal with a house salad with house dressing and a stuffed baked potato.
A few minutes after placing our order, the server came over with a small, round loaf of bread and our salads. The bread was dense and chewy and was warm. It was topped with olive oil, garlic, basil, artichokes, and onions. Wow. Simply amazing. We were both in heaven and took care of the bread almost immediately. Tim's salad was mixed greens, croutons and a french garlic dressing. The dressing had wonderful flavor with lots of garlic and it definitely had a kick. It was very pungent and wonderful. My Caesar was great, too. Tim didn't like it and said there was something that tasted funny but I thought it was wonderful. It came with three anchovies on the top and I even tried one of them, which I've never tried before. The flavor was wonderful, but that tiny little fish packs a punch! It's salty and tangy and wonderful, but it made my eyes water because it was so strong!
It was a very short wait when our entrees arrived. My filet was perfection. I had asked for medium, but it came out more like medium well, which was fine with me. It was like butter - I barely had to use my knife and it just melted in my mouth. I've never understood people who need ketchup or steak sauce for a steak - if you order the right cut of beef, it doesn't need a thing - just a little salt and pepper. The sweet potato fries were good, although not my favorites. That distinction still goes to Delux.
Tim's Chicken Cordon Bleu was not your standard cordon bleu preparation. Most of them are breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese. His was a chicken breast topped with bacon, bernaise sauce, herbs, and cheese. It was great. The bacon had a wonderful sweet, smoky flavor and added a lot to the flavor of the chicken. The cheese on top was like icing on the cake. :) His stuffed baked potato was the clear winner, though,. It was a twice-baked potato and stuffed with bacon, cream, butter, cheese, and chives. It was creamy and buttery and had a hint of smokiness from the bacon. He loved it and so did I.
After we finished, we were pretty full, but when offered dessert, we almost never turn it down. I tried the brownie sundae and Tim never passes up cheesecake. The brownie sundae came out in a big bowl and it was a layered chocolate delight. There was a pool of incredibly rich chocolate sauce on the bottom, a brownie, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with another brownie, topped with whipped cream, topped with more chocolate sauce and some caramel sauce. The whole thing was peppered with about a hundred dark chocolate and white chocolate shavings. Pure decadence. It was incredibly rich and amazing.
Tim's cheesecake was a large slice of plain cheesecake with some of the same chocolate sauce. The cheesecake was very good, but not as good as the brownie. :) Tim had some cheesecake about a million years ago and it has stuck in his head as being the ultimate cheesecake. Every now and then, we find something that comes close, but most cheesecakes don't live up to his memory. This one didn't. He enjoyed it, but it didn't quite live up to his expectations.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience. The food was great and the service was right on the ball. They were attentive without intruding. My water was always full, the dirty plates were immediately removed from the table, and they even wiped the crumbs from the table before bring dessert. All in all, it was a great anniversary experience.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I love the thunderstorms. The past few nights we've had some major dust storms and tons of lightning and thunder. I don't know what it is, but it just makes it easier to sleep when it's raining!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
My friend Scott, in Minnesota, sent me a link to a great website a while ago - Feasting in Phoenix. We've been loyal fans of this guy's food reviews, and most of our current favorite places are places we've tried because of him. Today, we read a new review of a hot dog place. It made us both hungry for hot dogs. I don't even like hot dogs, but about once a year I crave them. The place he went to isn't open on Sundays, but someone posted a comment about another hot dog place that he prefers - but that was closed too. After some searching, we found a place in Tempe that was open on Sundays, so we headed down.
Something you should know - Tim and I drive for food. Phoenix and its suburbs sprawls a LOT - it's very long and very tall. One of our very favorite breakfast places is about 45 miles away from our house, and the best barbecue we've found in the valley is across the street. We're faithful to both of these places, though. So no matter how far - if it's good food, we are willing to drive.
Anyway, we drove down to this hot dog place using Matilda as our guide. (Matilda is just a random name for Tim's GPS that we made up when we got her. We have no idea why we named her that, but she has been a lifesaver in many instances.) We got to the place and saw a "For Lease" sign in front of the building and it was pretty dark inside. Tim had read that they were opening a new location near ASU, so we drove over here but didn't see it. After some searching on Matilda and the internet via our cell phones, we still couldn't find an address. We were very close to Harlows, another favorite breakfast place, but they were closed for the day. Across the street, though, is the Cornish Pasty Hut. We have been there before, and I was less than impressed. I like pasties, but the one I tried the first time had zero flavor. By the way, pasties are basically pot pies that you eat with your hand. The traditional ones have sausage and vegetables inside a crispy, flaky crust. Tim really wanted to go there, though, so I humored him. I ordered The Royale with Cheese and Tim got a Carne Adovada one. We both really enjoyed it. Mine had ground beef, onions, mushrooms, bacon, and cheddar cheese. It was basically a big cheeseburger. Tim really liked his too. It was a bit spicy, but the meat was very good. It was a much better experience than the first time we went. I tried the Shepherd's Pie pasty and disappointed. The one I had today was definitely much better and I would go back without being forced.
So sometimes he gets what he wants, too. I like to let him think he has the upper hand, and he likes to let me think the same thing. It works for us. :)
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Tim doesn't like dark chocolate, and wanted to try a bar. We asked the guy in the shop for a suggestion of the best milk chocolate. He suggested Dolfin Chocolat Au Lait. He said it was Belgian milk chocolate in its purest form.
The two chocolate bars set us back $11. Expensive for two candy bars, but you have to indulge every now and then.
We barely got out to the car when I was tearing into my candy bar. Despite the 105 temps today, I just had to have a taste. We turned the air conditioning on high and dove in. I broke off a small piece of my bar and tasted it.
YUCK! I was horrified! The taste of plum completely overwhelmed the candy bar! I could barely taste the chocolate and there was absolutely no flavor of bacon. I was soooo disappointed.
Tim had a taste of his and said it was pretty good - I had a small piece and even though I'm not a huge fan of milk chocolate, I would tell it was very smooth and had a great flavor. His candy bar was the clear winner. Now that I think about it, I was kind of hesitant when he said there were plums in the candy bar, but I figured he probably know what he was talking about. It was a very sweet chocolate bar, even with the dark chocolate, but I was definitely looking for something that was a mix of sweet & salty.
We know some people who are going to Vegas in a couple of months and they said they'd be happy to bring me a bacon bar, so I guess we'll just wait. Tim didn't mind my candy bar, so he'll probably nibble on it. I would be willing to try another Zotter bar, but nothing quite this exotic. There were some with hazelnuts, pistachios, etc. that I would be willing to try. I was bummed out, though.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I've been craving strange foods lately. No, I'm not pregnant for all you smart-alecks out there. I'm just weird, in case you didn't already know. Today I was craving a hot dog and a grilled cheese sandwich. I don't like hot dogs. I eat them on occasion, but I don't really like them, and it's about once a year when I feel the urge to eat one. And grilled cheese. Yum. I don't want a fancy one, though. No herbed focaccia with three cheeses and arugula for me. No, we're talking about white bread and the cheese that comes in the plastic wrappers. For the record, I stopped eating that kind of cheese years and years ago. That's how my family made them when I was young.
I think I crave these things when I get stressed out and want to go back to simpler times. A good example of these types of food is chocolate chip pancakes. My dad has made me chocolate chip pancakes most of my life. They can often be found in restaurants, but they never taste as good as when I was sitting in my kitchen in my jammies and slippers, talking to my dad on Saturday morning. Whenever I miss my dad, I head over to our local pancake house and order a stack of chocolate chip pancakes. They're not quite the same, though.
Tim did a blog entry a while back and it was an ode to his mom's cooking. My parents weren't exactly gourmands, but we always had dinner. More often than not, it was from a jar or box, but we didn't mind. Now that I'm older, there are occasions when I crave Ramen noodles or Spaghettio's or fish sticks. Things that gross Tim out. :)
I discovered that I love to cook back when I lived with my parents. When I moved out, though, I had to re-learn how to cook everything. I learned how to cook for 6 people - my parents, me, my sister, and two brothers. The first few meals I made myself after I moved out was enough to feed an army and I ended up eating what I made for three meals a day for a week! Over the years, I've gotten better and more adventurous with my cooking. I can even make things that Tim likes, which is no small feat. :) It's not that he's a picky eater, but we have opposite tastes sometimes. I like farm food - meatloaf, pot roast, mashed potatoes, steak, that sort of thing. Tim likes duck, Tom Kha, panang, sushi, pho, etc. Whereas my idea of a great dinner is a steak wrapped in bacon, baked potato, and a cob of corn, his idea of a great dinner is a bowl of Tom Kha, followed by panang and satay.
Our cooking styles are also opposite. Tim is an engineer and he uses recipes. When he makes a meal, there is a huge stack of measuring spoons and cups all over the counter. He is very "by the book" and if the recipe tells him to mix something for five minutes, he'll actually set a timer. He even measures milk before he adds it to eggs before scrambling them. :) I, on the other hand, do things completely differently. If I decide I want to make something, I get on the computer and read a bunch of recipes. Then I throw them all away and just start throwing things in a pan and see what happens. I haven't used a measuring device in a long time. Tim is the baker, though. He makes the world's greatest chocolate chip cookies. When it comes to baking, you have to measure, because everything in baking is about chemistry. I hate baking - I think it's tedious and boring. One of the things I hate about making cookies is that I feel like it takes all day. I will, however, spend all day making a 5-course meal. I know - I'm confusing.
One things we can agree on, though - we love and appreciate food!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
We took care of the wait problem by making reservations, which is probably what we'll be doing from now on. It was very nice to not have to wait for an hour for an open cooking table. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation, though, and while we were waiting to be seated, we noticed that there was a large party with three young girls who were being young girls. They were loud, giggly, and running everywhere. Tim said "You just know we'll be at their table." I laughed because it did seem like that would be our bad luck. They were seated about ten minutes before we were, though, so we thought we were clear. Then they called our name and we followed the host into the dining room, and guess who was already at the table. So we basically had mom and dad, a late-teens, early 20's daughter, and three "tweens". The three of them were sitting in a row. The one in the middle was the know-it-all. She was loud, giggly, and the one hitting the table with the chopsticks, etc. The one to her right was the funny one. She was egging her friend on and joining in the chopstick hitting. The girl to her left was the quiet one who got ignored by her friends all night. By the time we got our check, I wanted to reach over and give her a hug. She was teary-eyed by the time we left the table. I think when you have an uneven number of friends, ESPECIALLY girls, this is a very common dynamic. One person always gets left out. Most of the time, when I was young, that was me, so I really felt for this little girl. She was teased by her friends the whole night, when they even bothered to talk to her.
We tend to think of our childhood as an idyllic time. I think we have the benefit of time and distance that allows us to think that, though. I remember even way back to elementary school there were politics among groups of friends, and the cliques were even more pronounced during high school. Although as adults, we have what we consider to be "real" problems - money, jobs, kids, etc., when you're a kid, you don't know and can't see that someday you'll view your problems as trivial.
I'm not a mom, and I never will be, but I hope that other parents out there try to remember just how hard childhood can be sometimes.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Salads and work - living the dream, folks. I'm full of excitement lately. :)
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I'm very careful about my "to-do" list. I arrived to work this morning with 16 items on my list and as of right now, I have 29. Three have been crossed off. Sigh.......
I'm going home to my boyfriend now - if he remembers what I look like. (I kid, I kid.) He's actually very sweet - whenever I work late, he doesn't yell too much, and he usually brings me dinner so I don't starve to death. Don't I have the best guy??? :)
Saturday, July 7, 2007
They had people who were dressed up and taking pictures with people, too. It was a cute little spot with even a town square.
After Tim was done with his car show, we met back up at the hotel and got ready to tour the USS Midway - the other reason Tim wanted to go to San Diego. On my adventure to Old Town, I discovered that it would be much faster to take the trolley to the America Plaza (screwdriver building) and walk down to the museum. The walk from the hotel to the museum wasn't that long, but for two people who are woefully out of shape and one person who's very badly sunburned, it seemed like a better option. On the way, we stopped for lunch in Little Italy. My earlier assessment was correct - it wasn't that interesting. We had lunch at a little sandwich shop and the food was "eh." Just okay - nothing special.
We arrived at the Midway and climbed up the thousands of stairs (I may be exaggerating) to the harbor deck. We were given headphones and the stuff for the audio tour. We proceeded to tour the ship, which was absolutely amazing. The one thing that I remember the most was in the focsle room. There were these really huge ropes coiled up on spools and a huge chain on the floor. I am sure these are the completely incorrect words to use, but I've never been in the military, so I'm not really sure what the real words are. Here's a picture of one of the chain links. That's Tim's size 11.5 shoe. Big chain.
In the park that's adjacent to the aircraft carrier, there was a really big kiss.
Friday, July 6, 2007
I kept telling Tim that was a "big boat". He keps correcting me and telling me it's a "ship." I just like to annoy him. :)
The harbor is also home to the USS Ronald Reagan, which is another really big boat.
There are a LOT of war ships in that harbor - the general idea we got was that it would be a REALLY bad idea to piss off San Diego.
This is a view of the Coronado Bridge from underneath. The legend is that if you kiss will passing under it, you will have good luck. We could certainly use some, so we had to give it a try. :)
After our two-hour cruise, we decided to have a "San Diego experience" and we took a bicycle cab to Seaport Village. It's a kitschy little tourist area right on the water with all kinds of different shops and eateries. We walked through briefly, but I was fried to a crisp and we were both tired. We walked back to the hotel and relaxed a bit. That night, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon on Fifth in the Hillcrest area. It was good food, but once again, I'll let you read Tim's review.
It was a great day and we had fun. In hindsight, I probably would have doused myself in sunblock like Tim. Here's a picture of us on the cruise. The guy who took it was a little older and didn't have a clue how to use a camera. My digital camera is pretty self-explanatory, you hit the button and it takes the picture. Anyway, it turned out well.
See my smart boy, all wearing a hat and not bright red at all? That's me next to him - turning into a damn lobster.
Here's the San Diego skyline. Note the building that looks like a Phillips-head screwdriver at the top. The guy doing the harbor tour was a jokester and he said that the National Helicopter Association recently named that building the most difficult for landing. Haha.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
They're a little hard to see in these pictures, but they were so big, and they looked really sharp.
We stayed in a Hilton in the Gaslamp Quarter near the water. It was a great hotel. There were these two benches right outside:
The top one says "Remain Seated Please" - it's a little hard to read in the picture. They cracked me up. Tim thinks I'm weird.
We ate a late lunch at a Thai place in Hillcrest called Kitima Thai. The food was pretty good, but service was horrible. The waitstaff was rude and we had to ask twice for tea and silverware and everything. Then the check came. Tim always tries to guess how much the bill is going to be before he looks at it and when he saw it, he was shocked. When the server came over to collect the bill, Tim asked about the prices. He was charged $3.00 more than the menu price for his entree, and my entree was $2.00 more than the menu price. My drink was also $.45 more than the menu price. We weren't happy. They fixed it, but it just makes me wonder how many other people have eaten there and just haven't noticed.
Later that night, we took a walk in the Gaslamp and had pizza at this little hole in the wall place that does pizza by the slice. That was Tim's favorite meal of the whole trip. The pizza was pretty good (I'm not a huge fan of pizza, so I'm not a good judge) and we had some garlic knots. The knots weren't really cooked enough, not garlicky enough, and they were out of sauce to dip them in. They weren't as good as they looked in the case. Tim said the pizza was really good - great crust, nice and greasy, and the sauce was nice and spicy. I had a slice of pepperoni and Tim had a slice of pepperoni and a slice of meat pizza.
We mostly just took it easy that day. We were on vacation, so we decided to have one lazy day.