The Triumph of the Grill: It looks like barbecue fans are in for a mighty swine time this week. The Great Arizona Rib Roundup kicks off Thursday and runs through Sunday. Rib houses from around the country are displaying their bones downtown at Civic Plaza, between Second and Third streets. Among the local participants is Hap's, whose ribs are among the best in town. (See this week's Cafe review.) Ribateurs from Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio (Ohio?) will join them. There's musical entertainment every day--John Kay and Steppenwolf on Thursday; blues, country, oldies and rock throughout the weekend. And if the music doesn't grab you, maybe the pig racing will. (But where do they find small enough jockeys?)
Best of all, the event is wallet-friendly. Admission is free, although organizers are expecting you to yield to temptation and buy some ribs and fixings from the vendors. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
It Weren't Broke, but They Fixed It, Anyway: That's what seems to have happened at the Terrace Restaurant, the Phoenician's swanky Italian-accented restaurant. A few weeks ago, I lavishly praised the place. The meal had gotten off to a swift start with ravishing appetizers like polenta and Gorgonzola cheese fritters and roasted langoustines. The braised lamb shank and Parmesan-crusted veal scaloppine entrees almost took my breath away.
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Well, they won't anymore. They've been banished, replaced by fare less elegant, less sophisticated, less costly and less labor-intensive. The appetizer list now features soup, pasta and salads--minestrone soup, linguini with clam sauce, caesar salad--hardly cutting-edge material. And the entree list now tilts heavily toward slabs of grilled meat. But who's going to want to come here with these high prices? Like $21 for a 12-ounce pork chop? Or $26 for a ten-ounce Angus beef rib eye? Or $25 for an eight-ounce tenderloin? Also gone: roasted monkfish, and seared scallops with fennel and saffron risotto. Instead, snoozy red snapper and--ugh--two chicken dishes. (The old menu, to its credit, had no chicken dishes.) I don't know if the menu change is in response to customer demand or that of bean-counting carnivores at the Sheraton home office. I do know discerning palates are not likely to be pleased. Bring back my lamb shank!
Java Jive: Set way back in a typically ugly shopping strip next to the northernmost point of the Squaw Peak Parkway, Aroma's doesn't look like the kind of coffee house that would slow down traffic.
Too bad. It's a good spot to stop and smell the brew. The double cappuccino, a bargain-priced two bucks, comes in an oversize bowl, the kind that houses a morning caf au lait in France. I'm also partial to the Dreyer's frozen yogurt, blended with ingredients like cheesecake, Ghirardelli chocolate chips and decaf espresso. It's a bit pricey at $2.30 for yogurt with one blend-in, $2.85 for two, but the quality is definitely there.
Aroma's is at 3375 East Shea, just a few feet east of last Squaw Peak exit.--Howard Seftel