That's why we were so delighted to hear a squeal when we passed Cold Stone Creamery. We like Cold Stone's ice cream, sure, but for us, it's no big deal -- we can have it any time, at one of dozens of shops that the Scottsdale-based company runs in town. But our friend was through the door, already placing her order in, well, a New York minute. Turns out Cold Stone's the hottest thing to hit Manhattan since Coors started selling beer east of the Mississippi. But it's still hard to get to, in the Big Apple. There isn't a Cold Stone on every corner -- yet.
We watched our friend gorge on a vanilla/cookie dough mix-in and thought to ourselves, "See? Phoenix isn't so bad after all."
Next time one of your Tucson homies can't avoid a trip to Phoenix, shut him down and fill him up at Pita Jungle. Every time we eat at the grunge-chic, concrete-floored restaurant in Tempe (or its similar companion in Chandler), we feel the Tucson love. This place is straight off the campus of the University of Arizona, with a wide variety of Mediterranean dishes including a cheese-topped pita "pizza" and a great combination platter of chicken, beans, rice, garlic sauce and pita. The best part of Pita Jungle is the environs -- with groovy local art on the walls and dreadlocked customers kicking back over berry tea, you'd swear you've died and gone to -- yep -- Tucson.
Every so often, the folks at Four Peaks break out and get their culinary groove on, in a big way. In this case, it was with a four-course, five-beer dining extravaganza. We mingled with Cask-Conditioned Mild Ale, then sat down to a first course of lamb won ton soup and a glass of Idle Hands. We kept busy with a second course of buffalo spring rolls and Hop Knot Ale. We have to admit we don't remember much after that, but seems to us a rib eye -- perfectly prepared, brushed with oyster sauce and accompanied by veggies and rice -- appeared next, with our favorite Four Peaks blend, Kiltlifter. We do remember one thing: that dessert, a calzone filled with ricotta and brownie filling, with chocolate and raspberry sauce, would have fed the entire table, it was so big. But we were glad to have one to ourselves, along with a glass of Chambord oatmeal stout.
We can't wait for the next pig-out, er, we mean gourmet dinner at Four Peaks. The Web site promises the next one is coming soon.
The dream came true when Johnny Chu, proprietor of Fate, the funky Chinese eatery that's a favorite of the downtown lunch crowd and First Friday scenesters, happened to mention that he moonlights, happily accepting the assignment of cooking in any kitchen. The meal wasn't cheap, but it certainly didn't cost more than a feast at Fate, and the food was even better, if that's possible.
Our compliments to the chef!
We only wish we had such good taste -- at least, for a meal, we can have such good tastes.
Once a stagecoach stop, the cafe attracts a wide variety of guests, from grizzled prospectors and cowboys to glittery Scottsdale divorcées on the prowl; from families packed into the minivan for a trip to the Grand Canyon to bikers out for a Sunday ride. The coffee is strong, and don't forget to try one of Penny's amazing pies and enjoy a slice of old Arizona before it disappears under the relentless wave of development that's steadily marching north along the Black Canyon Freeway.