If you follow our Chow Bella Instagram account (@chowbellaphx) and have been keeping up with our Food Tours series, then you already know that June included quite of bit of travel for the Chow Bella team -- including me. I don't always get to share details about the food I've eaten on my trips, so I included some of the highlights here. The rest of the list includes a handful of dishes from Phoenix spots -- and one local beer that you really ought to drink while you still can.
I hope you get to try some if it for yourself soon.
See also: 10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in May
Pleah Beef Salad at Reathrey Sekong
This is one of my new favorite dishes for summer. As much as I enjoy Reathrey Sekong's hot noodle soups, this cured beef salad is really unlike anything else on the menu or anything else I've had in town. Thanks to the citrus this salad is full on flavor, specifically an enjoyable tartness that's perfectly complemented by an abundance of crunchy peppers and fresh cilantro. The fact that it's chock full of pieces of beef also means you won't be feeling hungry again just a few hours after eating.
Carolina Dog at Joe's Farm Grill
I'm not a big hot dog fan in general, but the Carolina Dog at Joe's Farm Grill is so good it's even worth the long drive from central Phoenix to Gilbert. The first thing that makes the dish standout is the fact that it's topped with super-moist, smoky pulled pork and cole slaw. The tangy vinegar from the slaw works perfectly against the heaviness of all that meat, plus it's all wrapped in a light, toasted Texas toast-style bun. The buttery-ness of the bread makes the dish feel like an ultimate indulgence.
Shio Ramen at Shoki Ramen House
Every time I get to Sacramento I make sure to stop by Shoki Ramen House at least once. I'm a huge fan of this place, as is ramen-nerd Keizo Shimamoto of Go Ramen!, who named it one of the six best ramen shops in the country last year. My favorite bowl at the tiny ramen house is the shio, or sea salt broth. It's just salty enough and gets a flavor boost from the fact that chef Yasushi Ueyama also includes black pepper. The noodles are always perfectly cooked and every thing -- from the memma to the chashu -- is made in house. To me, it's the perfect bowl of ramen.
Miso Eggplant at SumoMaya
As I wrote in my First Taste, there are a lot of good things to eat at the new Sumo Maya in Scottsdale. I loved more than a few dishes I tried while I was there but I think the dark horse was the miso eggplant. It's not prominently featured on the menu and compared to some of the other dishes, it sounds a little...blah, but I couldn't be happier that it made it to our table. The subtle flavor of the miso sauce was delightful and the eggplant itself, perfectly cooked. The sprinkling of sesame seeds added just the right amount of texture to make sure your palate doesn't get bored while you plow through the whole thing.
Lavender Creme Brulee at The Market by Jennifer's
Creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts but generally, I'm a purist. In this case, however, the light touch of lavender was a welcome change. The custard in The Market by Jennifer's dessert is light and airy, while the thin, layer of crunchy caramel was burnt to a beautiful rich, golden brown. On the side of the plate, a duo of peach and raspberry coulis offered additional sweetness. It's the perfect dessert to end a light lunch or dinner.
Fried Bologna Sandwich at Wimpy's Paradise
Sometimes you just crave a solid sandwich and if you're a fan of fried bologna, Wimpy's Paradise knows how to deliver. Their sandwich features a thick slice of fried bologna along with lettuce, tomato, and mayo (or Miracle Whip, if you prefer). I also choose to upgrade my sandwich to include a fried egg -- yolk cooked all the way through to avoid the sandwich becoming a soggy mess. Along with the toasted white sandwich bread, this combo is a welcome reminder that good food does not need to be fancy.
Denmark in The Desert Imperial Sour Peach Porter Collab with Mikkeller at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
When I was in Copenhagen last summer I made the pilgrimage to the Mikkeller Bar so I've been pretty excited to see what the gypsy brewer helped create with local Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. I'm not a beer expert by any means, but I really enjoyed their collaborative brew that blends the properties of a sour and porter into one drink. It's not the kind of beer the average person would want to drink all the time, but you can definitely pick up the fruitiness of the locally grown peaches. For being such a dark beer it's also surprisingly light, though there's still a bit of the chocolaty flavor you might expect from a porter.
Pineapple Li Hing Mui Ice Candy at Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
Growing up in a Hawaiian household, I have a real appreciation for li hing mui powder. As such, when I saw it on the menu at Scottsdale's Super Chunk Sweets and Treats I had to have it. For those who aren't familiar, li hing mui is salty, dried plum, which can be eaten whole -- they're mouth-puckeringly sour and quite salty, definitely an acquired taste -- or ground up into a red powder that Hawaiian kids put on everything from candy to fresh fruit. At Super Chunk you can have it in ice candy form. The dessert, a popular Fillipino one, includes fresh fruit frozen in a plastic bag. The li hing flavor gives a nice sourness that's just perfect with the fresh pineapple.
Umami Burger at Umami Burger
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I popped over to Southern California at the end of this month for a quick weekend trip that didn't include much serious eating. The only thing I did manage to squeeze in was a dinner at Umami Burger. I was seriously doubting that the infamous chain would live up to the hype, but I have to admit it was pretty damn good. The classic Umami Burger includes a Parmesan cheese crisp (rather than a slice of cheese), a shitake mushroom, and roasted tomato. All the toppings pretty much play second fiddle to the super-thick beef patty, which honestly does offer a more complex and rich meaty -- okay, fine, umami flavor than your typical burger. The buns are also completely incredible: perfectly toasted on the outside, light and fluffy inside, and remarkably sturdy.
Black Bean Fritters at Havana Patio Cafe
We lost the original location of Havana Cafe earlier this year, but you can still get your Cuban fix at the restaurant's north Scottsdale location. Owner and chef BJ Hernadez offers a remarkably large menu of eats and if you find yourself up there be sure to start with the Frituras de Frijoles Negros, or black bean fritters. They're golf ball-sized fritters of spiced black beans that you dip in a side of Hernadez's addictive avocado dip. Don't let the minty green color scare you away, it's delicious.