Monday, March 2, 2009

Down On The Farm

I never realized that Phoenix is a “chowhounds” Utopia. We have generated a list of at least a dozen places to eat based on the New Times “Best Of Phoenix 2008” issue, and Chuck’s cousin Raina keeps coming up with more. Knowing that we were heading to Queen Creek on Saturday to visit the Pork Shop, Raina called on Friday night and told us that we should stop at Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert while in the general (very general) neighborhood. Are we glad she called!

Joe’s is located in what used to be the farmhouse of the owner’s (Joe Johnson) family. Today, the size of the property has shrunk from 150 acres to 15 acres, and much of this is used for organic farming to supply the restaurant. What they don’t grow themselves is local, organic, and additive free. Open from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Joe’s breakfast service ends at 11:00, and the lunch/dinner menu begins. The main menu is not long (but the line to order your meal is), but contains some surprises. You find twice-grilled pizza (the crust is pre-grilled, toppings added, then grilled again), a Portobello Mushroom Sandwich, the Grilled Wild Salmon Platter, and something called the Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Split sandwich. This concoction includes peanut butter, chocolate chips, pineapple, fresh strawberries and bananas on grilled Texas Toast and served with a side of fries. I’m not real sure about this – maybe kids like it.

Chuck chose the BBQ Pork Plate that came with fries, creamy slaw, and garlic flatbread. Violating my miles-from-a-body-of-saltwater rule, I ordered the Ahi Tuna Sandwich, topped with Asian Slaw and served with a side fries.

Seating is either in a good-size inside dining area or outside on picnic tables either under the trees or on a covered patio. Since the temperature was in the high 70’s and there was a nice breeze, we opted for the patio and waited for our buzzer to go off indicating our meal was ready. We no sooner sat down and Chuck began to worry that he wouldn’t like the sauce mixed with the pulled pork. He was not to worry. His plate contained a half pound of the moistest and tenderest pork covered with a sauce that was neither too sweet nor too tart. We both agreed that Joe’s pulled pork was better than we had eaten in many Memphis restaurants. The garlic flatbread complimented the meat well.

His cole slaw was excellent. The cabbage was shredded and not chopped, the creamy dressing hinted of sugar. There appeared to be no vinegar in the dressing mixture. And the fries! These were the hand cut fries we have been looking for. Crisp – yes crisp – on the outside and moist and mealy inside, they were virtually grease free. Mr. Potato’s hand kept creeping toward my order, and I reluctantly shared.

My ahi tuna sandwich was out of sight. The grilled tuna was beautifully rare and moist. Alone, it was delicious. But add wasabi and the Asian slaw and it became the perfect sandwich. The cabbage was lightly tossed with sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and other seasonings. Sesame oil, ginger, and garlic is one of my favorite taste combinations. The sandwich came with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles on the side in case one wanted to add them to the sandwich. But who would want to.

And guess who also ate at Joe’s Farm Grill? Yes, Guy Fieri. They had copies of Guy’s book Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: An All-American Road Trip (No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List) for sale and, of course, we bought one. To my delight, the recipe for Joe’s Asian Slaw was included in the book and I’ll be making it soon.

We were both too full to even share a desert which was too bad. They have a Hot Fudge Cream Puff which is described as vanilla bean ice cream in pastry, farm-made hot fudge, whipped cream, toasted pecans, and a cherry.

We plan to make a return trip for breakfast. The breakfast menu lists the Monte Cristo Fritters: ham, turkey, gruyere cheese in a fritter batter, deep fried, and served with boysenberry syrup. Let’s see. If we got there at 10:30 and had breakfast, by the time we were finished it would be after 11:00 and I could have the Hot Fudge Cream Puff. Works for me.

I’m beginning to worry that I am being too free with my 5.0 Addies, but try as I might, I can’t find anything wrong with either of our meals. So 5.0 Addies it is.


We seem to be near a landing point for one of the local hot air balloon companies, so one evening we watched the landing of one of the company's balloons.

I'm sure that riding in a hot air balloon is both a serene and an exhilirating experience. And with an experienced pilot who can ascend and descend to find the wind current to "steer" the balloon, it probably feels like one is flying.

Even though this looks as though the pilot landed among the RVs, the landing was perfectly executed. The balloon landed about 50 yards from the edge of the park in the planned landing zone.

That is the mark of the skilled professional--making a difficult task seem effortless.

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