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At Harris', they're so proud of their meat that they display it in aging coolers off the restaurant's entry. It's Certified Angus Beef exclusively, and dry-aged on the premises for 21 days. While virtually no fat arrives on the finished product, we suspect some is there during the cooking process -- a creamy ribbon of fat is critical to the beef, soaking its velvety richness into the meat as it slowly roasts.
Our sumptuous slab is pricey, $28 to $32 depending on the cut, but well worth the investment for its quality. That it includes sides of perfect potato and premium vegetable like crisp snap peas (freebies unheard of in top steak houses these days) makes it all the more delicious. At the end of dinner, we stuff our cheeks with complimentary peanut brittle from a tray in the lobby.
When it comes to prime numbers, the only one we need is Harris' on our speed dial -- reservations are strongly recommended.
There's simply no better substantial lunch than the chicken-fried steak, cubed beef double dipped and served with fluffy mashed potatoes, oceans of rich gravy, corn and a biscuit for just $5.50. The only thing that beats it is the supper, where for just $9.95 we get a double portion of steak, paired with a garden salad (love those pimientos), potatoes, even more gravy and a biscuit.
The meat is cut on site from USDA choice aged beef. The potatoes are homemade, but then so are the biscuits, the gravy, the salad dressing, the batter, well, everything.
Hey, if our childhood home had cooking like this, we never would have left it.
All the classics show up in style: St. Louis-style pork ribs, smoked chicken, pulled pork, smoked brisket, or Q-turkey. A sampler brings a bit of everything, served with two ribs and choice of two side dishes plus bread. And we love the specials -- grilled ancho barbecue meat loaf, the Smokin' Bleu (pulled pork topped with bleu cheese coleslaw), or the Dynamite (hot peppers, chiles, onions and jalapeos, sautéed with Red Diamond marinated brisket on a jalapeo roll with melted pepperjack). The only complaint we have for this Southwestern-style 'cue company is that it's open only for lunch and only on weekdays. But still, this 'cue is a coup.
Who needs anything else, when we can get our fill on brilliant veggie creations like roasted beets tossed with spicy greens, toasted almonds and sheep's milk feta, or a savory tart of green garlic, leeks and spring onion with ricotta and manchego? And while other places may make do with steamed broccoli, carrots and potatoes, Kaufman conquers new ground with sides like Tuscan kale, rapini, artichoke-bacon-potato hash, flageolet beans with caramelized garlic, squash blossoms, and garlic spinach that's so good we want to curl up in bed with it.
When we're at Rancho Pinot, you can't make us not eat our veggies.
But we're not concerned with what type of potatoes the kitchen uses at Peruanitos, an outrageously delicious Peruvian restaurant where absolutely everything on the long menu sparkles. Picking potatoes is the chef's job. Still, we are smitten with the spuds that arrive at our table, one glorious creation after another.
We could live on this stuff -- papas a la huancaina (in creamy, spicy queso fresco with palillo herb), papa rellena (spicy beef wrapped in a mashed potato shell with red onion salsa), causa rellena de atun (layers of mashed potato stuffed with tuna and Peruvian spices), sopa de leche (potato soup), papa a la diabla (potatoes with a creamy salsa of onion, queso fresco and boiled egg), and carapulcra (mashed and sun-dried potatoes with pork, peanuts and spices).
Peruanitos changes its potato dish selections periodically, but we've found that a woeful stare at our server works wonders with special requests. Any way you slice it, these tubers are tops.
Now we're living the dream at Sushi 101, where there's an all-we-can-eat special for $19.95, no chasing required. There are some restrictions: Leftovers are charged at full price, including rice. This means that diners who bite off more than they can swallow face penalties on their bills. If we can't finish our shrimp tempura roll, or try to sneak in more value by not eating the rice on our nigiri sushi, we'll be charged the full per-piece sushi price on top of that $19.95.
We have no problem with that. We know, down to the grain of rice, exactly how much sushi our stomach holds (years of practice). And Sushi 101 servers warn us up front that this is not a buffet. We can order as much as we want, in as frequent intervals as we want, but we'd really better mean it.
The thing about El Encanto is that it's centered on a beautiful lake, bobbing with graceful ducks and geese. While we're getting fed truly delicious Sonoran food (viva la margarita!), the waterfowl are hoping we'll spring a quarter into one of the grain-filled gumball machines. Turn the knob, fill a little paper cup with delicious goose chow, and the birds come flapping over.
Now here's our idea: Put the quarter in the machine. Fill the cup with grain. Then, take that expensive rock and stick it down into the bird seed. Hand the cup to your sweetie. Just be sure she doesn't toss the whole kit and caboodle in the pond. Isn't that romantic?
While other brunches use the flash factor of acres of food to draw oohs and aahs, T. Cook's offers a refined finish to the weekend, offering a prix fixe menu of à la carte Mediterranean-inspired classics. While we're not leaving as gluttons, what we do eat is guaranteed to be the very best in its league.
If we're feeling dainty, we can go for the $19 cold buffet, an all-we-can-eat extravaganza of fresh seafood, smoked salmon, gourmet salads, grilled vegetables, fruits, cheeses, breads, pastries and more. If we want to supplement -- or substitute -- our feast, we can select from T. Cook's regular breakfast and lunch. This means classy dishes like spinach and oven-dried tomato quiche; white truffle and fontina cheese omelet with chicken leek sausage; asparagus and wild mushroom soup; lobster and avocado with butter lettuce, shaved fennel and garlic jus; or seared pork tenderloin with sweet potato pancake, Savoy cabbage and apples.
All this in a brilliant, Southwestern hacienda setting lush with gardens, and T. Cook's is truly something for a special Sunday.