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  • Article

    Flan Fanatic - Custard's last stand

    Flan is one of those desserts people pooh-pooh, as if its production seems too simple, or its presence in a Southwestern town like ours too prevalent. But take it from a flan-obsessed gourmand like myself: Good flan ain't easy to find. Like tiramisu ...

    by Stephen Lemons on August 11, 2005
  • Article

    Grade Inflation - D is for don't go there

    I'm at a sushi bar the other day, waiting for the chef to finish up some toro nigiri for me, when I decide to pay the raw-fish maestro a compliment. I praise the swank new restaurant he works in, and comment that the sushi has improved since it first...

    by Stephen Lemons on August 4, 2005
  • Article

    Rib-Tickler - Pig flies to Mesa

    No slight intended to that toddlin' town of Mesa, but few are the delectations that would motivate me to drive down to that burg in 110-degree-plus heat, with the monsoon on my tail. Exceptional barbecue is one, and exceptional barbecue Mesa now has ...

    by Stephen Lemons on July 28, 2005
  • Article

    Tepid Tapas - Putting the pain in Spain

    If I were not duty-bound to visit a restaurant more than once before reviewing it, I never would have returned to Scottsdale's Tapas after my initial, disastrous visit. There were even a couple of points during the evening when my companion and I ser...

    by Stephen Lemons on July 21, 2005
  • Article

    Urban Legends - Continents get cozy

    Does anyone else cringe when they hear of Mayor Phil Gordon's front porch benches and how they're now greeting visitors at Sky Harbor Airport? The mayor's Mayberry aesthetic may have a noble intent; it's supposed to bring us all together, and in doin...

    by Stephen Lemons on July 14, 2005
  • Article

    Crazy Love - Dude meets ranch

    I feel like kicking up my heels la Tom Cruise and pumping my fist for joy. That's right, I'm in love, and I don't care how dirty I get Oprah's couch! No, it's not with some pretty young thing 16 years my junior. And no, I don't need a "beard," than...

    by Stephen Lemons on July 7, 2005
  • Article

    Reality Check - Better be good

    Chef Christopher Gross never misses a lick when it comes to reminding you of all the plaudits he's picked up in his day. There's a fairly exhaustive list on the take-home menu for Christopher's Fermier Brasserie, Gross' acclaimed Biltmore Fashion Par...

    by Stephen Lemons on June 30, 2005
  • Article

    Somali Sublime - They've got your goat

    Dining in Phoenix sometimes feels like going toe-to-toe with Torquemada during the Spanish Inquisition, or at least Monty Python in that skit where they declare, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Except here, they let you choose your method o...

    by Stephen Lemons on June 23, 2005
  • Article

    Sammy Time - Fresh pasture for downtown grazing

    Call me the Benedict Arnold of Phoenix boosterism for saying so, but the thought of light rail does not titillate me. Nor does the prospect of ASU Prez Michael Crow spilling more of his Mormon seed money all over downtown. Bioscience Center? Sounds t...

    by Stephen Lemons on June 16, 2005
  • Article

    Wing Nuts - Rival eateries play chicken

    Like the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, Buffalo wings get no respect, no respect at all. The name "Buffalo" hardly engenders esteem, as that burg's other contributions to the culture include Millard Fillmore, Vincent Gallo and the Goo Goo Dolls. Pro...

    by Stephen Lemons on June 9, 2005
  • Article

    The Sweet Life - So many flavors, so little time

    Whenever I visit The Gelato Spot, that new purveyor of Italian "ice cream" across from Zen 32 at 32nd Street and Camelback Road, I'm often reminded of that classic short story by Irwin Shaw, "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses." It's the one where thi...

    by Stephen Lemons on June 2, 2005
  • Article

    Pie-Faced - Pizza guy gets lucky

    Pizza is one of those foods I enjoy too much to actually indulge in very often. Once the feeding frenzy begins in earnest, I'll go through an extra-large pie solo and start on the cardboard box if any cheese has dripped onto it. Keep your hands and f...

    by Stephen Lemons on May 26, 2005
  • Article

    Sausage Fest - It was the wurst of times

    For this food critic, there's nothing quite as satisfying as gnawing on a hunk of butt while perusing the Scottsdale-based Serbian Times and occasionally wondering how many pierogi a grown man can ingest before he explodes. The butt in question? Smok...

    by Stephen Lemons on May 19, 2005
  • Article

    Rule, Britannia! - Cod is great

    As any Birkenstocks-clad liberal arts major will tell you ad nauseam if you let him, the word "empire" is a loaded term, a Pandora's box of negative connotations. From the conquest and subjugation of native peoples to Darth Vader and the Death Star, ...

    by Stephen Lemons on May 12, 2005
  • Article

    Karma and Camus - The cure for existential munchies

    I'm fairly skeptical about the concept of some sort of cosmic justice, whether it be a benevolent graybeard on a throne up in heaven, or something less silly, like the notion of karma. After all, not enough bad things happen to the right people. If m...

    by Stephen Lemons on May 5, 2005
  • Article

    Colombian Chow-Down - You'll have a lot on your plato

    Like most foodies, I'm fond of almost all ethnic cuisines, and I'm always heartened to hear of another attempting a toe-hold in greater Phoenix. Indeed, upon learning of one, my first instinct is to pull on my socks and head out the door quicker than...

    by Stephen Lemons on April 28, 2005
  • Article

    Calf-Fry Castle - Venerable feed lot reopens

    I may pique the interest of Michael Jackson fans by saying so, but who knew that the, uh, cojnes of young calves would make such a mouth-watering appetizer? Not me, as I must admit to never partaking of this well-known Western delicacy before stoppi...

    by Stephen Lemons on April 21, 2005
  • Article

    So-So Sushi - A big fish story

    Submitted for your consideration: the worst sushi I've had since I made the mistake of walking into a Todai many years back. Sushi that makes Trader Joe's prepackaged California rolls seem like the food of the gods. Sushi so repulsive that it'd make...

    by Stephen Lemons on April 14, 2005
  • Article

    Lust for Laab - Fresh flavors restore our critic's faith in food

    We need some new rules here on the Ponderosa, and the first one is that for every bad meal I have to endure, my belly deserves to be placated with a satisfying one. Truly, last week's trek to Armadillo Grill was so hideous that I should be pampered l...

    by Stephen Lemons on April 7, 2005
  • Article

    Road Kill Rules - Off-track in more ways than one

    Is it possible to predict a lousy dining experience as soon as you enter a chow house, without a peek at the bill of fare? You betcha. For instance, if the teenage hostess is on her cell phone calling her boyfriend, or the waitstaff's forced to wear ...

    by Stephen Lemons on March 31, 2005
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