Winter Hibernation

I apologize for the lack of postings.  Sadly, I don’t have much to report.  The highlight of December so far has been NOCA…and rightly so.  We were able to get a spot at the bar last Thursday for Cheese-steak Night.  And I must admit…it was the most decadent and delicious cheese-steak I have EVER had.  It was so good…I really didn’t want to swallow my bites…I didn’t want to loose that unctuous flavor of the Kobe..thin and rare…on top a melted onion puree and white cheddar foam…the sweet peppers topped the beauty…all cradled by a toasted brioche roll.  Wow.  It was divine.  House made chips came with it…but they were nothing compared to the cheese-steak.  Next time, I’m just going to sub my chips for another cheese-steak.  I started the meal with a roasted chestnut soup with foie raviolo….yum.  NOCA, by FAR, has made some of the best soups I’ve ever had.  With the exception of some soups at Niche…they are leading the pack.

We just returned from a quiet weekend up in Sedona/Flagstaff…nothing spectacular to report food wise…although..the scenery and our cabin were amazing.  It was a nice weekend away to just relax and enjoy each others company.  No TV…no computer…..heavenly.

We are planning a trip back home in Jan…then to Portland and then off to the island of Hawaii….I’m sure there will be more to report after the holidays!

Wishing you all the best during this Holiday Season and a bountiful and healthy 2009!

Simply Bread…Simply Divine

I was spoiled living in St. Louis…just a hop, skip and jump away from what has to be on of the best bakeries in the US. 222 Artisan Bakery When we were planning our move to the Southwest…we lamented on not having access to our favorite place for cinnamon rolls..bear claws…pecan rolls….COFFEE!  But, in talking with our friends, we were given a glimmer of hope.  The person that taught our friends to bake the most delectable edibles set up shop in our soon to be new home.  Simply Bread. Talk about luck of the Irish.  Of course, the actually bakery is about 30 miles from our new house…but as if we weren’t lucky enough..the gourmet food store that Simon works at is a Simply Bread retailer.  We wouldn’t get the FULL experience of Simply Bread but we would at least be able to get our hands on a decent baguette.

So, as time passed, we became accustomed to our lovely local selection of Simply Breads in our little town’s store.  Not feeling the need to travel to downtown Phoenix to score our next loaf….we were happy with what we had.

But, as luck would have it again…I got lost.  Yep, on the way home from dropping a friend off at the airport, my trusty TOM TOM ran out of juice.  Now, I like to think I’m pretty go at directions (Simon will tell you different)  I figured if I could just get to a street I recognized, I would be able to find my way home.  As I turned down N. 24th St…looking at cross streets or a sign to the I-10…there it was in all it’s glory.  Simply Bread!  I couldn’t let this chance meeting go by without a stop in…and lucky for me it was a Monday afternoon and they were open.  I parked the car in back…wondering if I should drop the names of my friends…but more curious than that…to see what else was going on inside.  I walked into a small home, converted into a retail space…flanked by what looked like industrial type barns for baking.  I was greeted by a lovely woman who was quick with a slice of a chocolate baguette (I could have finished the rest of the entire thing if she’d let me at it).  I asked for Jeff…my friend of a friend…but he was busy working his magic in the bakery next door.  No matter…I was still in awe of all of the yummy goods that were sweetly sitting in my view.   Without a thought, the nice woman behind the counter phoned the bakery and I was able to make the connection I wished I’d made sooner upon arriving here in AZ.  Jeff was very pleased to hear his friends had sent him a new customer and was very warm and polite during our short phone conversation…despite the fact that I most probably took him away from his work.

The conversation made me long for home…to see my friends that we both had in common…to have a warm cup of coffee and bear claw on a clear and bright Saturday morning in Edwardsville….but, Simply Bread would do for now.  I left with 3 loaves of bread and little package of coconut macaroons as a special treat.

As happy as I was with my bread…words cannot describe the beauty of my little macaroons.  There is another post coming soon on the coconut macaroon, itself…so I will spare you my superfluous diatribe now…but believe me when I tell you that I would drive 60 miles to get my chubby little fingers on these macaroons again….and no, I didn’t share one of them….I couldn’t resist.

my deepest apologies

I know I have been MIA lately.  LIfe has just been quite busy for us here in AZ…with work, school, quasi-parental duties…I have neglected my blog….and I am so very sorry.

So…where to begin?  Let’s start with our favorite new bar…well, favorite in a sense that we’ve been there twice…they have fried cheese curds…it’s a Packers Bar and you get draft Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for $1.50…and it’s served in a Mason jar.  Live country & western to boot.  Not what most of you would assume would be our watering hole….but…the food is good and simple…the beer is cheap and cold and you can toss your peanut shells on the floor.  It’s called the Buffalo Chip SaloonbclogoOne of the last cowboy bars out here in our neck of the woods.  Where we live, the horse rancher is king….the Buffalo Chip even has an area for you to tie up your ride…give it a cool drink of water while you load up on fried cheese curds and Pabst Blue Ribbon.  And yes…it is used often…you can tell by the huge piles of poop.  Sunday nites is Rodeo night and they have real-life bull riding.  Simon was quick to ask if anyone could ride the bull…and no, it’s only for professionals.  The minute I walked in the joint I was instantly taken back to my time in Austin, TX…nights at Jenny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.  It’s not often I can tolerate a night of country music….but this place is different.  It’s authentic.  The dust on the walls is at least a half inch thick…loads of vintage beer posters/neon signs…the house band in the corner..including a little old guy that plays a mean steel guitar and about 10 true to life old cowboys sitting around the bar in their ten gallon hats with thier horses tied up out back.  Just down the road is a Steeler’s bar called Harold’s.  I don’t like Harold’s as much at the Buffalo Chip.  Harold’s is a Harley bar…Harley’s are BIG out in these parts.  Lots of baby boomers livin’ the good life on thier Harley’s….kinda annoys me…but hey…at least they are having fun.

So, about Cafe Bink…..

I’ve noticed some folks have been searching for Cafe Bink in STL….sorry folks…it’s in Carefree AZ.  If you ever travel to Scottsdale…it’s just a 30 minute drive north….don’t miss it.

But I digress:  Lunch at Cafe Bink was delicious….albeit on the spendy side.  We knew that going into it though.  I’m just not accustomed to dropping $75 on a mid-day meal….but it was worth it.

Upon our arrival, Simon was very skeptical.  There was a young mother and her two toddler children in the cafe and (as silly as it may seem) Simon dreads eating out with children around….unless they are well behaved.  Mean, I know…but it’s a pet peeve of his….and I must say I have to agree with him at times.  There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a great meal with a toddler running around screaming at it’s mother for chicken fingers.  But….that is a topic for another day…..

We were greeted at Cafe Bink with house-made foccacia.  Wow.  It was really good.  Had the lovely crust on the outside and was warm and chewy on the inside.  Flecks of Fleur de sel were strewn across the top and gave a salty little kick here and there.  It was served with a sweet, fruity extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar plate….simple but pleasing.

Of course we ordered the famous fries.  Now, you have to understand something…..I am not a big potato fan.  I like them two ways, whipped with cream and butter or deep fried to a golden brown.  I don’t like new potatoes, potato gratin or scalloped….just whipped or in fry form…I know…I know….but it’s who I am.  Before leaving St. Louis, we fell in love with the Shaved Duck’s fries….uber shoestring potatoes fried in duck fat.  Now….I have said this from the beginning and the boys at the Duck know all about it…..I just wanted the fried thicker cut….I don’t mind shoestring but these were SUPER shoestring and they were tricky to eat….although delicious….I always managed to get them down.  The fries at at Cafe Bink (not fried in duck fat mind you) were thicker and friend to PERFECTION!  Jesus H Christ…..they were the best pomme frites I have EVER put in my mouth.  They arrived in the traditional Parisian fashion (wrapped in newspaper and stuck in the little metal cone)….and were accompanied by 3 different dipping sauces: 1) truffled catsup 2) herbed mayo 3) traditional aoili.  Each sauce was beautiful.  Don’t need to say much about the truffled catsup…it was simply that…house-made catsup with a hint of truffle.  I almost died and went to heaven.  (I am a big catsup eater….and truffle lover).  The herbed mayo was jam packed with herbs…a bright green concoction with a heavy dill flavor….would go great with fish….and the aoili was light and garlicy…..not heavy or oily…perfect.

Next Si had the french onion soup….nothing very fancy but it was executed properly.  The gruyere was strong and flavorful….so many times they top french onion soup with chinzy swiss cheese and it has no flavor….not at Cafe Bink….the cheese was great.  The soup was rich and almost resembled an onion compote under the crouton.  I had a mixed green salad with chevre, dried figs and pancetta.  Simple and good.  The one thing I must say is that they knew how to dress a salad properly.  There wasn’t a pool of vinegarette at the bottom of my bowl…each leaf had a nice touch of dressing and that was it.  Simon had a truffled grilled cheese… about decadence.  It was one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever had.  Not greasy at all!  The bread was crispy golden and the cheese was melted just right… came with house-made dill pickles and chips…both good as well.

We finished off the meal with a strawberry milkshake and some chocolate chip cookies……I must tell you that I am VERY picky about dessert and have been spoiled by one of St. Louis’ best pastry chef’s magical creations…..

while the shake and cookies were good…they couldn’t hold a flame to the work of Mathew Rice.  Not even close.  The presentation was cute but the shake lacked strawberry flavor and the cookies we not fresh…..what i wouldn’t give for a peachy keen shake from Veruca right now…….or a peppermint matty….ugh.,…

now…all Binkley’s needs is a little jonny style stage action……but alas, the man himself is in NYC……playing with the cool kids….