Last week Gus and I went to the Arizona BBQ Festival and enjoyed some great tastings.  There were BBQ tents and portable kitchens set up throughout the Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.  One of the best features of the event were the chef demos held throughout the day.  I attended two demos; the first being Chef Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails.  Each chef was to demonstrate how to make some type of “road kill”.  Chef Stephen chose an appetizer of  Frog Legs and it was delicious.  Since meeting him and a short conversation, I decided to also check out the restaurants website and Facebook page.  This restaurant looks like well worth a visit.

 

Frog Legs Appetizer:

I don’t actually have the recipe for the Frog Legs Appetizer but it begins with a 3-1 pickling sauce with these following ingredients.  There is probably more to the pickling sauce but this is all I could get down before we moved on to the next step.

Pickling Sauce:
1 part Red wine vinegar
3 parts Water
Coriander
Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Vegetable Bed for the Legs:
Take 1/2 of a butter lettuce leaves, cleaned and then quartered.   Drop them into the warming pickling sauce and allow to braise.  Thinly slice 1/4 red onion and add to pickling sauce.  Let braise for around 10 minutes.

Chef Stephen talked about how to skin and prepare the frog legs for cooking.  It is the back legs only.  I’m not sure if I could do it but buying fresh has to be a tastier dish than if you bought frozen.   There is not a lot of meat on the legs so plan on quite a few for even this appetizer.  Pre-smoke for 5 minutes the full piece legs with a probably the pecan wood since it’s also used for the almonds.    Let the meat cool then cut the meat into small bite size pieces.  Toss the bits in Wonderflour and drop them into hot clarified butter.  The chef recommended this over regular flour as it is not as heavy.   Cook legs in clarified butter instead of whole butter.  This browns at slower pace and not burn.

Frog Legs Appetiser with Pickling Sauce
Frog Legs Appetizer with Salad Bed in Pickling Sauce

To plate, remove the greens from the pickling sauce and arrange on the plate.   Drain the meat bits of excess butter and place on the plate.  Garnish with sliced radishes and pecan smoked almonds.   Chef added a few drops of a balsamic vinaigrette glaze to the plate for an added touch.

Chef Stephen has a charming and charismatic persona to match his talent for cooking.  Even at his young age he has a substantial background in culinary expertise.  His ideas for cooking are new and refreshing.  Some even very fattening!  Once of his specialties at the restaurant is his signature Tater Tots which are made from scratch. They begin with shredded potatoes and bacon.  I don’t recall the balance of the ingredients so you’ll just have to visit to get a better idea and a personal tasting.  Anyway, he said that he mixes up the tots, places them in a large (probably very large) decorating tube and squeezes the mixture out on the sparkling clean prep table in the form of a long tube.   Then they are cut into around 1 inch pieces rolled in probably Wonderflour.  They are then placed in the freezer until ready to fry.  Letting them rest in the freezer will also allow them to set up for frying.

Chef Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails
Chef Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails
Chefs Famous Tator Tots
Chefs Famous Tater Tots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A little more about the festival.  The Arizona BBQ Festival is the largest Honky Tonk in the state of Arizona! There’s live bands, hilarious “redneck themed” games, more beer and booze than you can handle, and (literally) tons of smoked meat like brisket, chicken, pulled pork, ribs, and all the fixin’s.”

The day we attended there were over 20 pit-masters in attendance cooking right on the spot.  They were serving up a variety of “brisket, ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, shanks of all kinds, and all the sides like grilled corn, baked beans, cornbread, and more”.  We had several favorites; one was a Smokey Mac and Cheese that we tasted from the Memphis Best BBQ (I think) and the best smoked meat and longest line was at Montana BBQ hidden away at the back of the field.

 

 

 

If you like good food, laughter, the sounds of exuberance and celebration, a mostly loud festive atmosphere then you will enjoy Osaka Japanese Grill in Mesa, Arizona at Power Road and US 60.   They specialize in Teppanyaki cooking  which is an entertaining dining experience where the food is cooked on a large hot griddle.  Everyone seats around the Teppanyaki and enjoys the show.  The food probably tastes even better just because you have the pleasure of watching a specially trained Teppanyaki chef  while they prep, chop, dice it up and cook your food.

chef

We had six of us for dinner on  Monday night and thought it would not be extremely busy.  Not… it was hopping anyway.  We arrived a little early for a 7:15 reservations and sipped a wine while waiting for the show to begin.  While it took awhile for the cook to make his rounds to our table we watched and laughed at the antics at the other tables.  While ordering drinks we also placed our food orders.  Drinks came promptly for those who had not already ordered one at the bar.  We continued to be amused by our surroundings and then received our salads and soup some 15 minutes after ordering.

The salad and soup were both good from my perspective.  The soup was a delicate and mildly flavor of mushrooms and onion. The salad was too small and due to the size too heavy in dressing.  Other diners at the table didn’t care for the dressing which had a little too much ginger.

soup salad

Now it is 8:15 and we are all getting very hungry but there is a lot of fun going around us so we are still entertained.

Peter, our chef finally makes his appearance and all was forgiven for the wait the minute he started entertaining us.  He was delightful, fun, comical and made the dinner most delightful.  Mr. B ordered scallops and shrimp. Gus, Ms. T, Ms. K, Mr. D and I had filet mignon and scallops.  Osaka makes a fried rice standard at their restaurant which is not typical of all Teppanyaki restaurants.  Usually it is an upcharge.  Now for the cooking show…

Dinner served as prepared.

Well we are all so full and it was worth the wait.  Peter was diligent with his required Saki pours that were squirted right into your mouth.  I was afraid that I would be wearing the drink down the front of my shirt but he was so practiced that not a drop was spilled.  I do believe they were diluted since I didn’t get stinkin’ drunk.

Someone gave Peter the idea that it was my birthday so they did the traditional birthday celebration with carnival mask and candle lit cake.

mask1 bday

Five Star Rating from KCinAZ

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Osaka Japanese Grill and Steakhouse
6730 E Superstition Springs Blvd Mesa, AZ 85206
Phone: 480.830.8884

This was our second dining experience at Uncle Sal’s in Scottsdale AZ and the dining experience was just as great as the first.  It had been several years since we had first enjoyed the fine food of Uncle Sal’s and I was anxious to see if they could live up to my expectation based on the prior experience.  Our friends Fred and Basia highly recommended the restaurant both times and I quickly said yes when it came up again.   Our first visit was a little on the pricey side because we were in the main dining room and selected from the dining room menu.  I’ve no regrets though since the meal was greatly enjoyed by all and I was eagerly awaiting another visit.  I just wish my hubby, Gus, loved Italian food as much as me which would bring me here more often.

Uncle Sals At Thomas & Hayden Roads, Scottsdale AZ Our second visit was just as great but our dollar output was much lower.  The food was just a splendid as if we were still in the main dining room.  We seated ourselves on high back chairs at the bar since we did not have reservations and the only regret was the hard seats.  Gus was especially sad that we were not in main dining because he has a skinny little butt and complained later to me about the seating.  He would have preferred main dining even if the bar menu was not available.  When dining in the bar you have choice of the full dining room menu or the more reasonable, but limited bar menu. dunclesalsbar-25-600-450-80-rd-255-255-255 All the seats at the bar were also full by 7pm on this Sunday evening with other wannabee’s wandering in and around looking around for a seat.  We had our seats, a smile on our face and a great bartender, Johnny, giving us full attention.  Feel free to order the house Chianti for your choice of wine with dinner if you are more budget minded, however, there is a great wine selection to choose from.  The Chianti is a okay wine, priced reasonable and served by the glass. A freshly made house dinner salad was our starter and was bed of fresh lettuce, tomatoes and mine with a delightful house vinaigrette dressing.  I ordered the Chicken Milanese especially because I had tried a recipe from Big Oven and I wanted to compare the two dishes.  Sal’s Milanese was a delicate lemon sauce over a lightly breaded chicken along with Sautéed green beans.  _mg_5211_small-11-800-600-80-rd-255-255-255Uncle Sal’s was a much more delicate version than the one that I made and this was probably due to the light breading on the chicken.  It lends truth to more is not always better. Gus ordered a Rib Eye that was to die for and so huge it covered most of the plate.  I made him give me a bite and it was delicious.  Cooked medium rare and then with a butter topping of parsley, oregano, garlic plus salt and pepper, it would par with Ruth Chris easily but Ruth Chris would have been three times the price.  The was definitely enough for the most hearty appetite.  Gus had half left which we took home and made a hot steak, mushroom and Havarti cheese on French roll the following day.   In this case more was better since Gus had the pleasure of two meals and both very tasty._mg_5206-24-600-450-80-rd-255-255-255 Basia enjoyed a Pan Seared Scallop dish from the bar menu.  Her choice was priced very reasonable but they did not cut corners on preparation or quality.  It was excellent, of course I had a bite!  There was a nice light lemony sauce with bits of bacon for added flavor.  Fred’s choice was a Meatball Calzone also from the bar menu.  It was incredibly with large meatballs and lots of cheese.  This was the ultimate bar-man’s meal. On a fun side, I’ve heard rumor that Uncle Sal’s was based on a mafia family opening a restaurant to go legit.  Who knows for sure but it does add a little sparkle to the experience.  I can just imagine that Joseph “Joe Dogs” Iannuzzi dined here or led a secret life with Uncle Sal.  More to the truth, the Molinari family brought this fine cuisine to the valley of the sun in 1988.  The restaurant is high action, fast paced with a clientele ranging from their 30’s to 60’s from what I observed.   I would recommend to eat in the dining room where you may be more comfortable but if dollars are an issue pick the bar and let Johnny entertain you. Whether you eat in the bar or in the main dining room you will be sure to enjoy.   All in all this was a great experience, great meals and I cant wait to try something new next time. Here are some samples of other dishes prepared at Sal’s and borrowed from their website; http://www.unclesalsaz.com/ _mg_5239_small-20-600-450-80-rd-255-255-255_mg_5235_small-10-600-450-80-rd-255-255-255epasta-19-600-450-80-rd-255-255-255

Our first early evening in Galveston after a long slow dreadful drive from Houston was completely forgotten when we found ourselves at Nate’s Seafood in Jamaica Beach.  At least the dreadful drive through rush hour traffic on a Friday in Houston was forgotten, not the great dining experiences that day.  About, Nate’s,  don’t be confused by the Jamaica Beach address, it’s a small town along  the main Seawall Blvd from the East End to the West End on Galveston Island.  They are located just at the west side of Jamaica Beach.  The signage can be confusing along Seawall.   You leave Galveston, enter into Jamaica Beach and then return to Galveston just within a few miles.  Our Timeshare location was just a short 1.8 miles from Nate’s and Jamaica Beach.

Nate’s was found only because of stopping at the local market that was short distance from our Timeshare trade. The hotel (if you can call it that) didn’t have a dining facility and hunger had again set in after lunch earlier that day at Lupe’s Tortilla Mexican Restaurant. After filing the grocery basket to the brim with snacks, fruit, Shocktop, Guinness and Ménage a Trios red wine, the car was loaded up and we walked the short distance to Nate’s.  Luckier than most upcoming diners, a table had just been cleared and it was our for the taking.

On an earlier post about Eating Our Way Through a Vacation, I spoke of curbside appeal for a restaurant.  I can’t tout anything special about the façade for this little diner but surely it is not a best kept secret of Galveston.  It was clean, freshly painted outside and had a nice add-on outdoor patio.   It appears to be a regular stop for the locals and seasonal visitors with the bustle of hungry people coming and going to tables.  The bar packed with people noshing on plates of peel and eat shrimp or piled high plates of crawfish. The wait staff is at a quick pace that doesn’t slow the entire diner hour.

nates

redstarredstarredstarredstarhalf

During our visit to Galveston, we dined two times at Nate’s.  Mostly for convenience on the second visit, but the food and service were good enough for a return visit.  The first meal appetizer was Peel and Eat Shrimp which was nicely prepared with a light and tasteful spicing that must have been from a steamer broth.  Then we shared a large hamburger that was cooked exactly as wanted and large enough to share.  Selecting a beef dish may have been a mistake.  The burger was good, but being that Nate’s is a seafood restaurant the main course should have been seafood and I wish we had gone the extra dollars for something seafood.

On our second visit again we selected beef.  Go figure??  The meal was the Smothered Hamburger Steak and it was good.  Small side salads and a glass of so-so wine was enjoyed while waiting for the main course.  The Smothered Hamburger Steak was robustly spiced with a rub and grilled to a medium rare as requested.  Normally their hamburger steak would be covered with a beef mushroom gravy but we requested ours on the side so that we could enjoy more of the spice rub flavor.

Nate’s may not be five star dining, but the menu has enough variety for everyone, the staff is attentive and friendly, the portions are large enough to often split if desired and the prices are reasonable.  A very popular stop for the Galveston West End and worth the extra drive away from the heavy traffic on the East End.  Give them a try.

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Nate’s West End
17575 San Luis Pass Rd.
Galveston, TX 77554
Phone: (409)737-9530

More reviews to come as we travelled from Houston to Galveston and throughout that area during the first week of May 2013.

Our vacations are usually not what one would call the veg out and relaxing one where you sit by the beach and burn to a crisp.  Gus and I love to venture out each day in a rental car and visit antiques stores, stop by a brewery for his favorite stout beers and then find an interesting place for lunch and dinner.

Some of the eateries we visit are a pleasant surprise and others not.  It all depends.  Usually, we let our eyes do the talking as we are on the look out for somewhere to eat.  Does the restaurant have curbside eye appeal.  Does it look clean and uncluttered or is it old and quaint.  Old and quaint is fine if has that homey feel but not so overgrown homey as to reek of greasy spoon.  Once inside the nose takes over and if you feel and take in the aroma of good food then find a table quick.

lupe-tortilla[1]

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Our first stop was on arrival day in Houston was at Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurant.  We had just picked up a rental car from a location that was several miles away from George Bush Airport Houston.  The rental car location was selected because there was a NRA Convention in town and the rental car prices from the airport were $700-800 per week.  By going to an off airport location we were able to rent the same car for $235 a week.  Big savings and that how we found Lupe Tortilla in Houston.  They actually have a really cute website if you want to give them a visit.

Anyway, I digress.  Lupe’s was a pleasant surprise and delightful.  They have the usual curbside Mexican restaurant eye appeal of the Stucco Hacienda restaurant in yellow gold.  Inside it was tastefully decorated and colorful as with most good TexMex restaurants.

photo photo1

The food was very good.  We wanted Fajita’s and they had a variety to choose from.  The Chicken Fajita dish was selected and we also went with a side of guacamole.  Chips and salsa were enjoyed while we waited for the main course.  Lupe’s serves their Fajita’s with the larger size tortilla instead of small one so there was plenty of tortilla to go around.  I must say that this was one of the better Fajita meals that we have had.  There was plenty of grilled chicken cooked to perfection and enough grilled to caramelized onions to accompany.  They did not overwhelm the dish with onions, peppers and other nonsense so that you had to dig through to find a morsel of meat.  Since returning home, I’ve learned that there are Lupe Tortilla locations all over the greater Houston area.  Lupe’s… when are your coming to Arizona?

More reviews to come as we travelled from Houston to Galveston and throughout that area during the first week of May 2013.

Gus and I stopped by the Open Range Grill & Tavern in Sedona, AZ on our way back from Flagstaff to Prescott last week.  The restaurant rests in a beautiful setting within the Red Rock area of Sedona on the East Side of highway 89A that threads its way through town.  Since Open Range is on the second level of the Singua Plaza, you get spectacular views of the mountain range on the East Side of Sedona. The picture below will give you a great idea of the view from the dining room.  The restaurant itself is appointed in a combination of industrial and western design that somehow works well together.  It has a very open yet inviting look.   The restaurant service was excellent and our server Jeff was pleasant, friendly and took very good care of us during our lunch visit.

Open-Range-Logo

Best-Burger-Sedona-50x50

We selected the Bison Burger from the menu.  I have on occasion made bison burger at home and it is usually okay but not quite as juicy as a standard beef burger.  This same holds true for the Bison Burger at Open Range Grill.  I can’t place blame in the restaurant for serving a dry tasting burger.  When you cook a burger, whether it be bison or beef, when it is served medium it just doesn’t have the taste and texture that is to my liking.

However, I am sure that they have other items on their menu that would satisfy me more when we visit them next time.  For a look at what they are all about and other menu items, visit their website at Open Range Grill & Tavern.    I think I may give their Sage Rubbed Chicken a try next time.   I suggest you give them a try too if in the area, but do avoid the Bison Burger.