My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market

Earlier I blogged about the Camelback Market and while it was fun, I was eager to check out what Old Town Scottsdale’s market had to offer.

One thing I noticed right away was the abundance of dogs. It seemed most people had one or two dogs attached to them. (I even saw one dog licking some strawberries –eww!) Not only were there many dogs, but there were many products for dogs too. Bowser Beer (non-alcoholic), dog treats, and even doggie desserts were all offered for the precious pooches. If you’re a dog reading this, move yourself to Arizona and you’ll get treated well!

While there were a couple very small produce stands offering a head or two of cabbage, the big draw at this market was obviously McClendon’s organic produce. Bob McClendon and his team are quite famous around the Phoenix area. High-profile restaurants buy produce from McClendon’s and they expect the best.

Customers weave through the tables lined with bins of produce grabbing what they need for the week and then wait in one of seven lines (pretty efficient). The greens went quite quickly, but you could still get your hands on great veggies like kohlrabi and rutabaga.

In terms of produce selection, it’s very similar to what we offer. Unfortunately I did not find exciting ingredients like cactus leaves and such, but I found some other fun things like flax seed crackers from Raging Raw.

Fair-trade coffee from What’s Your Grind. They roast right out of their van!

And I also devoured this rich Salted Caramel Cupcake from Butter & Me.

One evening I was able to throw together a quick salad using a mix of backyard garden finds like lettuce, carrots, green onions and red peppers along with farmers market finds of Persian cucumber and cabbage.

I tried to "throw together" a quick peanut dressing.  It didn't quite come together as I had hoped, so Merrilyn and I took turns adding ingredients until it actually tasted like a peanut dressing.  It was a fun experiment that taught me I should work on my peanut dressing :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Arizona Farmers Markets - The Camelback Market

Checking out farmers markets in Arizona was at the top of my list. I quickly had visions of farmers selling unique ingredients like cactus leaves, colorful edible flowers, and super hot chiles. Looking back, I was surely setting myself up for disappointment because I did not see any of this. Instead, I saw something slightly different…

Bright and early on Saturday morning, we headed out to Vincent’s Camelback Market. Since this is held in the parking lot of Vincent’s restaurant and only has one produce stall, it’s more of just a “market”, but still a fun market.

It was quickly apparent that most people go to this market for breakfast as there were long lines for crepes, omelets, pastries and coffee. They even had a vendor serving champagne and mimosas! However, I spotted the brick oven pizzas and went that route (sorry Jamie Oliver, I did have pizza for breakfast).

They offered fourteen different pizza choices and I couldn’t decide between the Margherita and the Four Cheese so I got half of both.

After passing up the jewelry and fabric vendors, I stopped to chat with Carolyn of Carolyn’s Classics. She makes jams and jellies with all kinds of fruits. She even blends some with jalapeno for a nice kick. I had my eyes on the fig jam (as did Merrilyn), so we grabbed the last two jars and clung to them tightly because only a minute later a local came running up demanding fig jam. Whew, grabbed them just in time!

Merrilyn and I also stopped at the next vendor and picked up a couple homemade mustards. I’ve never seen a mustard vendor before, but he had all varieties. I stuck to the basic Irish Pub Mustard.

With our bellies and bags full, it was time to move onto the next farmers market in Old Town Scottsdale, which was much bigger and as a result, had more variety.

Next up...Old Town Scottsdale's Farmers Market

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Gem in Gilbert - Liberty Market

When I first started researching restaurants in the Phoenix area, I kept coming across the name, Joe Johnston. Not only did he start Coffee Plantation (before Starbucks hit Phoenix), which I remembered as a top place to get coffee on the ASU campus, but he’s been quite busy on the restaurant front too. One of his three restaurants, Liberty Market, was an instant love for me.

I met my friend, Angela, at Liberty Market in Gilbert for breakfast. We’re related, in the in-law sense, but I’m unsure of how to title it (second cousin-in-law perhaps?). Whatever you call it, we've known each other for many years.  When she suggested Liberty Market, I immediately said yes.  Gilbert is only about 20-25 minutes from Scottsdale on the freeway, so it was no problem getting there.

We lined up at the E61 Bar knowing one thing for sure: we both wanted and needed coffee.

(our awesome barista)

Angela suggested I try the Liberty Market specialty, a Cortadito, which is described on the menu as a “Cuban micro-latte”. It is espresso brewed with half and half poured over raw sugar. It can be ordered as one shot, two shots or a bowl (three shots of espresso). To avoid being totally wired, I went for the two shot.

Yep, it was literally served in shot glasses with the raw sugar at the bottom. After a little stir, I was in coffee heaven. It was SO good. Smooth with the perfect bitterness from the espresso and a little sweetness from the raw sugar, I almost wished I had ordered the bowl. So good!

Angela had already eaten breakfast, so she went for the Salmon Plate with chilled cured salmon, greens, olive tapenade and lemon olive oil. It smelled incredibly refreshing, so I grabbed a bite.

The salmon wasn’t fishy at all and the salad was quite light with a lemony flavor. I hear that for an upcharge you can substitute grilled veggies for the bread crisps. I love healthy options!

My breakfast wasn’t as healthy, but it was certainly delicious. I ordered the Sicilian Scramble which was made with local Schreiner’s Italian sausage, oven roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh herbs. It was served alongside a biscuit and a generous helping of Liberty potatoes (smothered in cheese). Props for serving honey with the biscuit as it’s my favorite biscuit topping.

I absolutely have to try adding oven roasted tomatoes to my next egg scramble. They added just the perfect punch of tang to cut into the richness of the cheese and eggs. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t finish the entire plate.

After breakfast, Angela had to dash, but not before insisting I check out the bathrooms. I thought I was going to be punked. Was the “restrooms” sign just a farce? Did it lead to a dungeon? Besides the fact that I had to pee, I was also dying to find out just what she had alluded to.

The bathrooms were unisex stalls that were completely enclosed top to bottom (talk about privacy!) AND they played music when you entered the stall, but stopped when you left the stall. COOL! And yes, I totally opened and shut the door as if I discovered a new toy. Music on, music off…

Not only that, but the owner, Joe Johnston, designed each stall himself to be completely unique. While one stall had a Vespa wheel and murals of Italy:

Another stall was covered in hand written recipes.

I had fun ducking into each stall and snapping pictures.  Only one person caught me and he simply shook his head and smiled.

When I was done having my fun, I holed up at an outside table, grabbed a Fentimans Ginger Beer and used the free wifi.

Next time I’m in the Phoenix area, you better believe I’m making a trip back to Liberty Market. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of the Cortadito coffees.

Monday, April 12, 2010

D'Lish Drive Thru - Scottsdale

Hey blog readers! Hope you’re hanging in there while I’m eating my way through Phoenix. I have been able to check out some really cool places, eat some great food and meet wonderful people. While searching for free wifi, I stumbled upon the best “home base" called D'Lish Drive Thru. It’s close to home, sells amazing fresh vegetarian food, has a great vibe and best of all, the workers are really cool. Not only has Adam been a gracious host, but he has provided excellent suggestions on where to get a pedicure, where to go for fresh Mexican food, and he constantly keeps my water cup filled (much needed in this dry heat).

It’s a pretty small place with only a few tables, but the coolest thing is that it has a drive thru with a ton of regulars. I’m amazed at how many people call ahead to order things like Protein burgers (mix of quinoa and black beans) and Buzz shakes (peanut butter and coffee) or just stop in for a superb hummus platter. I love the fast food concept that provides healthy menu items.

Of course I had to try the hummus platter for myself. It’s only $5 and you get hummus topped with sweet basil pesto, feta cheese, fresh veggies and doughy herb bread.

I also found that down here they have something called a dirty chai. Maybe it exists in Minnesota, but I’ve never heard of it. It’s a mix of housemade chai with a couple shots of espresso. Not too sweet and not too coffee like, it’s surely addicting.

Overall, it’s a totally cute place that I wish existed close to my own home. They took what used to be a normal coffee shop and turned it into something quite popular. If you’re in the Scottsdale area, I strongly recommend stopping by D'Lish Drive Thru.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FRESH + Quiessence

Have you heard of a little movie called FRESH? Shot documentary style, it is the creation of director, Ana Joanes and focuses on people who are re-inventing the way our food system runs.

Thanks to the Birchwood Cafe, I was able to see a screening of this film last summer when it was brought to the Riverview Theater. The theater was packed with educated and curious consumers who munched on Pastureland butter coated popcorn and absorbed every word spoken by the film’s stars, Polyface’s Joel Salatin and Growing Power’s Will Allen. They are everywhere nowadays aren’t they?

The time has come for the theatrical release of FRESH. To celebrate, cities around the country are offering special farm to table dinners that include a ticket to FRESH in your area.

I was invited to be the official blogger for Quiessence, located on a 12-acre farm in Phoenix. Quiessence regularly offers farm fresh items from Maya’s Farm (located on the 12-acres) along with produce from other farms in the area like the ever-popular McClendon’s.

I started my meal with the signature cocktail, an Orange Caprioska which uses fresh Arizona oranges and lemons, a touch of sugar and a shot of vodka. It was quite refreshing and delicious (and totally local).

First course was a salad of Lolla Rosa (red leaf lettuce), Haricot Vert, fresh herbs (I tasted cilantro and mint), toasted almonds from McClendon’s farm and red wine vinaigrette. I was sadly disappointed in this salad. The dressing had WAY too much salt and it ruined the taste of the surrounding vegetables. Farm fresh ingredients don’t need much seasoning, so I was surprised at this mistake. Robotically my server offered a replacement, but I declined as I just wanted to move on.

The second course helped make up for the first. Handmade cappellinni with asparagus, cauliflower (which unfortunately didn’t make it to my plate), fava beans and sliced carrots. The pasta was so delicate it almost melted in my mouth.

To round it all out, dessert was a tart dripping with lightly sweetened crème, grapefruit and tangelo segments with thin swirls of candied orange zest. I have to say this was one of the best tarts I have ever eaten.

I really like the concept of Quiessence, but tonight it did not impress.  Considering it is an award winning restaurant and my bill was $73, I guess I expected a lot more.  Live and learn, right? 

More FRESH events are going through next week here in Phoenix.  Check them out here.

Luckily for me, FRESH events don't start in Minnesota until I return, so I can do it all over again at a place close to home.  I'm mulling over hitting up Barbette or Bryant Lake Bowl.  Here's a list of Minneapolis events.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Needed: Arizona Sunshine

Hello from sunny Arizona! That’s right; I ditched Minnesota (for a little while) to get a jump start on the season. You know that phrase, “a watched pot never boils”? That’s the way I feel as I wait for spring to arrive. I get so antsy waiting for fresh produce that I took matters into my own hands and flew to a place where the sun is almost always shining.

(Lovely landscaping in the front yard)
I am not a stranger to the Phoenix area. In fact, I started my college career at Arizona State University and had a blast (it was one of the top party schools after all). It was a pretty idyllic life. Blue skies, pools at all the dorms, and come November, I was the envy of all my friends back home as I was still wearing shorts.

It is exciting to return to the good life. I am lucky enough to not only have a place to stay (with Ryan’s grandma’s sister, Merrilyn), but I also have a vehicle (a rockin’ minivan) thanks to Ryan’s grandma. This is a trip I have been mulling over for quite some time and I finally got the guts to just buy the plane ticket and go.

(In the backyard - a tree full of oranges)

(Fresh grapefruit for breakfast)

(Yes, a kumquat the size of a small lemon!)

I will be in the Phoenix area for almost two weeks and my goal is to discover fresh and local Phoenix. While my journey will include dinners at wonderful farm fresh restaurants like Quiessence and Joe’s Farm Grill, it will also include little neighborhood joints like Scratch and China Wok. Heck, I’m even going to visit In-N-Out Burger and Sprinkles cupcakes.

I hope you’ll stay tuned over the next couple weeks as I go on this food journey. No promises on strictly healthy or vegetarian foods (although they WILL exist), but I do hope you get some ideas and suggestions for your next trip to Phoenix.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Plenty of Eats at Target Field

Baseball fever has hit Minnesota. We have a new ballpark officially debuting on April 12th and Ryan and I are stocked up on Twins tickets. While I’m not a huge sports fan, I do enjoy the entire experience of outdoor baseball so I was thrilled to receive an invite to preview the food at Target Field.

I was able to try quite a few new items and I’m eager to share some of my favorites. I put together a slideshow on WCCO which can be viewed through here (just click on the slideshow link in the post), but I'll highlight some of the healthier options below.

Executive Chef Pastor Jimenez was on hand to answer all of our questions and I found him to be incredibly approachable. Hot dogs, hamburgers and nachos are staples at the ballpark, but it is refreshing to learn that healthier options have been considered as well.

Starting out on our tour, we stopped at Asian Wok, a new vendor offering both a chicken and veggie stir-fry. For $8.50, you’ll get a take-out carton packed full of veggies and noodles (and chicken if you choose).

I was impressed by the variety of vegetables offered: red onion, carrots, noodles, bok choy, red peppers and snow peas. The sauce used in this dish was quite spicy, but not overwhelming. Sriracha sauce is available if you like it very spicy.

As an alternative to the brats and hot dogs, Chef Jimenez said Morningstar Farms has developed a meatless sausage that rivals the real thing. He is excited to start offering it soon after the stadium opens. He’s also going to bring on a Morningstar Farms veggie burger and if it’s anything like the veggie burger served at the Metrodome, I’ll be a happy camper.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try anything from Senor Smoke’s, an ode to Juan Berenguer’s home country of Panama, but I heard there will be veggie burritos offered. Yum!

The hidden gem at the State Fair Classics stall is the veggie kabob. Zucchini, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions are skewered, grilled, and brushed with a flavorful pesto sauce. For $7.50, you’ll be able to get two kabobs with your order.
If for some reason, none of the food catches your eye, bring in your own! According to the press packet I received, outside food and beverages are allowed, so you can create your own day at the ballpark.

One non-food feature I’m really excited about is recycling. There are recycling bins placed throughout the park for both paper towels and normal recycling like newspaper, bottles and cans.

What excites you most about the new Twins ballpark?
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