Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Tempe Eats: People do weird things. Some collect string. Others follow baseball batting averages. Roisan Rubio obsessively wanders over every square inch of downtown Tempe.

From First Street on the north to 10th Street on the south, from College Avenue on the east to Ash Avenue on the west, he has compulsively tracked and reported on every restaurant, coffee house, ice cream parlor, bar, bagel store, brew pub, sandwich shop, hot dog stand, pizza palace, burger house and fast-food chain outlet in the area.

You may quarrel with the concept--who needs a write-up of Burger King, Dairy Queen, Chili's, Schlotzsky's or Starbucks? Frankly, outside maybe half a dozen restaurants, who needs a guide to downtown Tempe eating at all?

On the other hand, you can't fault Rubio's execution. He's found 86 places to eat and drink in downtown Tempe, and I certainly wouldn't argue that he's missed any.

And he's not timid about biting the hands that feed him. He points out bad food, bad service and bad settings. Casey Moore's, he reports, has a rude bartender. He doesn't like the spongy bagels at The Great Bagel & Coffee Co. If you want a copy of his 1998 "The Complete Guide to Eating & Drinking in Downtown Tempe," bring $4.95 to Changing Hands Bookstore or Books Etc., both, naturally, in downtown Tempe.

Fork Lift: Have you ever taken a sip from the finger bowl? Did you ever get a palate-cleansing dish of sorbet between courses and tell the waiter you hadn't ordered dessert? Have you wondered whether it's proper to eat chicken with the fingers? (No, the fingers should be eaten separately.)

For the past 10 years, David Rothschild, who runs the outstanding Metro Tech Culinary Arts vocational program for the Phoenix Union High School District, has been giving etiquette seminars to students. Now, he's branching out.

He'll be giving an EATiQuette seminar for the general public on Thursday, August 13, at Havana Patio Cafe (6245 East Bell) at 6:30 p.m. For 40 bucks, you get demonstration, discussion and a four-course meal with wine at one of this town's better restaurants. For reservations call 991-1496.

And now that summer vacation is winding down and school will soon be in session, keep Metro Tech's Fine Dining program in mind for a wonderful lunch. Every six weeks or so, from Wednesday through Friday, Rothschild's high schoolers put together a nifty three-course luncheon. Students do all the cooking and serving, while diners sit in plush booths at linen-draped tables. This is not the high school lunch you remember.

Last year, one meal offered a cream of leek and garlic soup en croute, a choice of beef tenderloin with morel sauce or filet of escolar for entree, and almond pistachio torte or Brie cheese cake for dessert. Another session featured a salad with Parmesan cheese crusts, saffron-seasoned grilled sea bass and a pineapple coconut Napoleon or mousse cake.

The cost is $10.50, and reservations go fast. The first lunch session is October 7-9. Metro Tech is at 1900 West Thomas. Call 271-2655.

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel