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Either munchie makes a delightful tool for shoveling medium-hot homemade pico de gallo, or a tomatillo salsa that hints of lemon, apple and herbs. If we're feeling fiery, we request the arbol salsa, plenty infernal and sharp-edged. And after a few margaritas, we're brave enough to call out the habanero purée. Our server doesn't want us to hurt ourselves, so she starts us with little more than a thimbleful, but even a few drops of this stuff bring a jolt that's pure liquid fire. At Los Sombreros, let the chips fall where they may -- as long as at least a few land on our table.
World Noodles serves -- what else? -- noodles, cooked to order in a wok and heaped in a big bowl for just $3.95 to $6.50 (most are about $5). For this, we get a healthy soba stir fry, tumbled with broccoli, snow peas, carrots and chicken, beef or tofu in teriyaki sauce. We also favor the drunken veggies, thick udon noodles tossed with enoki mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers, corn, green onions and tofu in a sprightly sake and sesame oil sauce. Among the slightly more sinful selections: beef stroganoff with mushrooms, cabernet cream sauce and horseradish sour cream, or good old mac 'n' cheese, blended with three cheeses, cream and garlic crouton crumbles. So, for good and quick, use your noodle and stop by.
The Stetson chopped salad is legendary, and we crave the calamari, tossed with chasoba noodles, sesame vinaigrette, chile oil and daikon radish sprouts. Entrees aren't for the timid, plated with starch and vegetables, and centered by such delights as espresso charred filet mignon (with pan-grilled vegetables, mashed tortilla potatoes, chipotle hollandaise). We endorse the signature dish, too, a fine fry of cremini, button and oyster mushrooms in ancho cream over double-cooked polenta with grilled portabellini, avocado, tomato and cotija cheese. Pure heaven.
Add a dessert of chocolate lottery torte, or Mexican chocolate pot de crème with chipotle cream, plus an inspired, globally encompassing wine list, and we're proud to call this new Phoenix chow our own.
The best way to eat here is to share sumptuous appetizers: nutty-toned truffle and duck pté, salmon tartare, and Egyptian flatbreads (pizzas) with toppings like earthy morels and roasted shallots on Brie with truffle oil; or roast lamb, chèvre, figs and balsamic. The best way to drink here is with one of two dozen themed flight selections, each flight a trio of three-ounce pours of different wines. The best way to be merry here? Hey, if we have to tell you that, you're in the wrong place.
That's the time to treat ourselves to an indulgent breakfast at Squash Blossom, a gorgeous place overlooking a two-and-a-half-acre water playground. Breakfast is an expensive treat -- $10.75 to $14.50 for entrees -- but worth every penny. Petite filet mignon is high style, paired with poached eggs, herbed hollandaise sauce, breakfast potatoes and toast, while corned beef hash kicks it up with chile cilantro hollandaise. For a special experience, go for the Arizona toast, a raisin bread sandwich filled with cactus pear marmalade, dipped in egg batter and served with fig compote. Or swoon over the potato pancake trio, each dainty round with a different topping: smoked salmon, diced onion, tomatoes, cream cheese and capers; beluga caviar, cilantro and sour cream; and pan-smoked trout with creamed horseradish. Oh, what a beautiful morning.
Once we've settled in, though, utopia usurps in this charming home turned gorgeous garden of full-flavored soups, salads and sandwiches. We can justify a life toiling downtown because it places us close to the Gorgonzola walnut salad, tumbled with sliced apples and red onion; or the roasted turkey sandwich, laden with smoked Gouda, cranberry/serrano chutney, red onion and greens on honey whole wheat bread.
Hey, hey, this is our cafe.