Second Helpings

Birdland, Part I: Are you the sort of fussy diner who always demands the freshest foods? Do you insist on just-picked fruit and vegetables, bread right out of the oven and soup made from scratch?

I do. But for fresh poultry, fussy folks like us have our hands tied. Modern urban life is not compatible with raising chickens.

But help is on the way. It's at Arizona Live Poultry, where your chickens always come home to roost, and roast.

As far as I know, this is the only Phoenix retail operation that deals in live poultry. It's been around about a year, run by folks from Saudi Arabia.

The setting looks very Third World, and it's not for the squeamish. There's a small anteroom. But the real action is in the back, where stacks of cages house chickens, turkeys, pigeons, ducks, quail and even rabbit. They're trucked in from Los Angeles, waiting for you to pick them out of the lineup.

After you make your choice, the proprietor will dispatch the animal, according to the principles of Islamic law. (You aren't permitted to leave with live poultry. This ain't PETsMART.) Such meat is called halal, and the process is similar to the one that religious Jews use to make their poultry kosher. Your dinner will also be cleaned and dressed. The cost? Five dollars and up, depending on the size of the bird.

Who shops here? The multilingual signs tell the story. The inventory is listed in English, Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese.

How does fresh poultry taste? All things being equal--healthy birds, well-fed--there's one major difference between a freshly slaughtered bird and its plastic-wrapped supermarket cousin: flavor. You can tell which bird is which after one bite.

Arizona Live Poultry is at 3826 West Indian School. Call 455-9500. What can I say? It's poultry in motion.

Birdland, Part II: Arizona Live Poultry isn't the only place where the chicken comes before the egg. A new outlet is offering its own take on takeout.

It's Mary Richardson's Country Pot Pies. As you may have surmised, chicken here doesn't come deep-fried, charbroiled or roasted. It's under a layer of pastry crust.

The proprietor, a veteran of the food service industry who decided to strike out on his own, has big plans. If the venture is successful, he's hoping to market the concept.

It seems like a good idea, but right now the execution is a little weak. I wasn't terribly impressed with the product, which just doesn't quite have that home-baked taste. Also, I've always thought chicken pot pie had some veggies in it, like peas and carrots. The pie I got had none.

The sides are also nothing to get excited about. The mashed potatoes and coleslaw are purportedly "homemade," but they had an institutional look and taste.

The pot-pie line will expand soon. Look for other styles of chicken (Southwestern and Italian), as well as a seafood version.

Mary Richardson's Country Pot Pies is in the shopping center at the northwest corner of 32nd Street and East Indian School. Call 468-9862.

--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at hseftel@newtimes.com or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,

 
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