Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Visitor from a Strange Land

Pennsylvania, that is.

Our friend from Bucks County arrived in Phoenix at 9:30 a.m. for a stopover on the way to San Francisco on an 8:30 p.m. flight. That gave us time (and stomach room) for two meals, so we needed to make them good. While Tom had hoped that we could find a breakfast place serving blue corn pancakes, these are a New Mexico food, so Plan B was needed. Where else to take him than to Matt’s Big Breakfast?

We have always been to Matt’s on a weekend when long lines are to be expected. But 10:00 a.m. on a weekday morning? Yes, when we arrived there were about twenty people waiting to enter this place that only seats about thirty-five. After about a half an hour, we were finally seated, and Tom got his cup of much needed coffee.

Matt’s is a small restaurant with short hours and short breakfast (served all day) and lunch (11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) menus. Some of our choices included: The Hog & Chick--two eggs, hash browns or home fries, and thick cut bacon, country sausage, or off-the-bone ham; the Salami Scramble--three eggs scrambled with Italian soppresata salami with choice of potato; the Chop & Chick--two eggs and a skillet seared Iowa pork rib chop and choice of potato; or Belgian waffles.

Our friend ordered one of the morning’s specials – two eggs, a T-bone steak, home fries, and toast. Chuck chose the Hog & Chick with home fries and ham. I, knowing what was to come, ordered a side of the hash browns and a slice of ham. And to round out the meal, we decided to share a stack of three griddle cakes. Yes, and we were planning to have dinner at about 5:30 p.m.

We all agreed that the ham surpassed the T-bone. Matt’s gets their ham and bacon from a store in Queen Creek called the The Pork Shop, and on last year’s trip we made a field trip (about an hour and a half away) to stock the freezer. Chuck particularly likes Matt’s griddle cakes, which have a very light and crisp surface. And while I prefer hash browns to home fries, I do like Matt’s home fries made from skin-on Yukon gold potatoes and cooked with diced onion and seasoned with fresh rosemary. I think it is the rosemary that makes all the difference.

When we left about an hour later, the number of people waiting for tables had grown. Matt has a good thing going here.

After a lazy afternoon of lolling around the RV and catching up on the past two (almost) years, it was time for dinner. Maybe we should have walked around the RV park a few times. But we took off to Barrio Café for an early meal. When we arrived shortly after the 5:00 p.m. opening time for dinner, the café was already about three-quarters full.

Instead of ordering three full meals, we decided to share three appetizers and an order of the Enchiladas Suizas (Mexico City style enchiladas stuffed with chicken with a tomatillo cheese and cream sauce) from Chuck’s and my earlier lunch.

We started with the Guacamole Casero, a combination of diced avocado, tomato, and onion, seasoned with lime and cilantro, and then tossed with fresh pomegranate seeds and served with tortilla chips made from the café’s house made corn tortillas. Chuck is not a guacamole fan, so Tom and I thought that we would have the lion’s share. No, the addition of the tart pomegranate made a guacamole-eater out of him.

The two men left it to me to choose the other two appetizers, and I selected the Quesadilla de Camaron Borracho (garlic and tequila shrimp on corn tortillas with melted Oaxacan cheese and queso de cabra) and the Queso Fundido (roasted poblanos, sautéed spinach, mushrooms and melted Oaxacan cheese with queso fresco and chorizo). In retrospect, I would have chosen one item without cheese. These two, combined with the cheesy enchiladas, made for an over abundance of cheese.

But there was still room for dessert. We ordered the Churros Rellenos de Cajeta de Carba (see yesterday’s blog) and the flan topped with candied pecans. The flan did not have as much syrup pooling the plate as most, but at that point in the day, less was more.

Chuck and I love The Barrio Café and it has become our favorite Phoenix restaurant. Yes, me the chili lover does appreciate this less spicy and more complex food and gives this restaurant a 5.0 Addie rating.

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