Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Up on the Woof: My friends know I'm not much of an animal lover. Or, to be more precise, a pet lover. Despite my feelings, we've had a creature sleeping on the premises for six years, a cat my wife took in when I made the mistake of leaving town for a couple of days.

The dialogue when I returned:
Me: "You got a cat! You know I dislike animals! How could you do this without consulting me?"

Wife: "You would have said 'no.'"
It's hard to argue with logic like this.
We don't overindulge our four-legged companion (how do you overindulge a feline that does nothing but sleep and eat?), but our household is clearly the exception to the rule. Americans spend more on pet care than many Third World nations scrape together as gross national product.

The latest example of our national mania for pampering and anthropomorphizing our pets: the Puppy Gourmet Bakery. The proprietors, Cami and Randy Finger, got their start making healthy treats for their overweight dogs, Micki and Freckles. Working with a vet, they developed all-natural recipes, with no preservatives, sugar or sodium. Now they've got a complete line of made-from-scratch products, of such high quality they say you can eat them yourself.

I'm not quite willing to put my critical faculties to that sort of test. But most plump pooches, I imagine, would enjoy guiltless snacking on a low-fat, peanut butter biscuit, a barkaque rib (a beef biscuit), a carob pupcake, a tootsie pup (peanut butter and carob biscuit dough swirled together and put on a chew stick) and molasses delight, crunchy cookies sweetened with molasses.

You can also enroll Fido in the Puppy Gourmet Month Club, ensuring a steady supply of treats. Or you can order gift baskets, for those special doggie occasions. And Puppy Gourmet Bakery will even cater canine parties: birthdays, dog weddings, obedience graduation, and, for all I know, bar mitzvahs and wakes. For a brochure or info, call 969-9505, evenings or weekends.

Restaurant Update: About two months ago, I wrote a harsh review of the brunch at Pinon Grill. I couldn't believe how such a topnotch place had gone so quickly downhill.

It looks like management is taking firm steps to reverse the slide and restore the glory. They've brought back Farn Boggie, who directed the kitchen when it won Best of Phoenix several years ago for its Southwestern fare. Now he's introduced a revised dinner menu. I think I recognize some old favorites, like blackened swordfish with pineapple-raspberry salsa and mulatto-chile sauce, and veal chop marinated in chiles and garlic. Baked salmon with sea scallops in a jalapeno-pesto cream sounds like something I'd like to try. So does the grilled ahi with three-melon salsa, moistened with a red jalapeno basil sauce.

Let's hope Boggie also fixes up the once-mesmerizing green chile corn bread. When we first sampled it years ago, I was so impressed that I directed my wife to stuff two in her purse so we could eat them the next day for breakfast.

Pinon Grill is at the Inn at Regal McCormick Ranch, 7401 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Call 948-5050.

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel