Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sushi in the Sky With Diamonds

We have a kind of unspoken agreement in our house that even if we are dirt poor, we will go out at least two times a year - for our birthdays - and it shall be grand (the whole decadent philistines thing, doncha know?).
What REAL sushi looks like!
All I wanted this year was sushi.  I mean real, honest to goodness sushi, with raw fish that melts in your mouth.  As I had made this mandate a good while ago, Scott had been on a search for such a place, and he found it in Shimogamo in Chandler.
My birthday being on a Wednesday, we didn't bother to make reservations, and we were able to walk right in and sit at the bar.
Our chef Al introduced himself and explained the four specials of the night.  He was great - it was clear that he loves what he does, and he had a great rapport with the group of three sitting a bit farther down the bar, clearly some of the many regulars who were there that evening.  He was willing to not just give us the rundown of what was in the various rolls but also to educate us about the different fish that they had, where the fish was from, and more.  It was a meal, a show, and a lesson all in one!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lettuce Pray

One of the items we receive regularly from our CSA this season is lettuce.  We've gotten both red leaf and green leaf.
Now, I don't want to complain, as this is fantastic, fresh, and flavorful (you gotta love alliteration), not to mention absolutely beautiful.  And lettuce grows like gangbusters here in Arizona, where there are few pests to ravage the crops.  However this bounty means that this is the one item that we CANNOT go through fast enough.  
I am trying extremely hard to reduce our overall waste, with specificity to our food waste (did you know that the average American throws out 1400 calories A DAY????).  But I feel like I am constantly peeling off the outer leaves of a head of our lettuce because it's gotten slimy and brown, tossing it in the compost bin.  And each time I do, I cringe, thinking of those leaves as dollar bills that I am throwing away.
Here's the thing: there are only so many salads that this woman can consume in a week.  And only so many sandwiches that feature lettuce.  
And that seems to be ALL lettuce is good for.  
We also get Swiss chard, arugula, spinach, collards, mustard greens, kale, etc.  These are fantastic; there is so much a person can do with these different greens.  But lettuce... I mean, really - type "lettuce recipe" into a search engine, and I challenge you to find something that doesn't also contain the words "salad" or "sandwich."  I did come across a soup recipe, but it called for some specialty lettuce, and I wasn't sure how a basic leaf variety would do as a substitute.
I'm desperate here.  If you know of a recipe that calls for lettuce but isn't a sandwich or salad, please send me the link or post the recipe.  A reward may follow.  I don't know what that reward (if there is one other than oodles of praise being sung from the rafters) might be, although the way Zooey has been behaving may result in the reward being a cute but naughty three-year-old coonhound.
But in all seriousness, I'm at the groveling stage.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Essence of Local and a Return of Balance to the Force

I have been wanting to try Essence Bakery in Tempe for quite some time.  I'm not sure how I originally stumbled across the restaurant; it may have been in one of many searches for local restaurants that use local ingredients, as this is something that Essence strives to do.
After I first learned about it, I was intrigued.  Then I found this article, and I can honestly tell you that I was salivating the entire read.
That was it.  I had to get there.
Of course, it's not the closest place to eat, and I knew that busy mornings (and lunchtimes) had the possibility of creating a cranky Wee One, so I've held off.
Fortunately, I was at a workshop in Tempe today, and I convinced my co-workers that this was where we needed to go to lunch.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dark Side of Local

Yesterday, we went to the Phoenix Zoo, which was a good time and perfect for two little ones to burn some energy.  We didn't see everything, which is normal for parents who insist on bringing their kids.
After two hours in the sun, we were hungry, and we headed out to lunch.  While I wasn't able to think of a local place before we left, as we were driving (and detoured, thanks to an event at Tempe Town Lake that I had totally forgotten about), I saw one restaurant that we love - Chompie's.
I turned in, and we went inside to wait for a seat (it was PACKED).  And wait.  And wait.  HRH went "potty" twice.  The girls danced and jumped to the amusement of many.  And we continued to wait.  Finally, we inquired at the hostess desk as to the wait, and we were met with with a rather snotty reply.  Then we watched a party of a similar number, which came in after we did, get seated.  That was it.  We left.  As we did, I asked the same hostess to please take our name off the list.  Her response - "Yes, ma'am," but without any tinge of politeness that one might expect with such words.
Yes, I realize that the place was busy.  I mean hopping - all the tables were full.  But I was, quite honestly, mortified that the local choice I made (and had actually talked up the other day) was such a terrible example of hospitality.
We ended up at a national chain at Tempe Marketplace, where we were greeted with a smile by every staff with whom we came in contact.
While we didn't stick around long enough for me to take the issue up with the manager (after about 45 minutes, we needed to get something in the girls' tummies before a meltdown was imminent), I did send an email to Chompie's, and if I hear nothing by tomorrow, I will be making a call.
I do plan to continue buying local, but it is to be noted that the one good thing about national chain consistency standards is that the standards are generally high (not a hard and fast rule, but generally).  I do hope that Chompie's will make a note of this, as there were clearly other unhappy people in the waiting area, and make some changes.  Until they do, though, I will be avoiding it; there are, after all, several other great local places that will offer their clientele a pleasant experience.
Please note - my intent is not to speak poorly of Chompie's.  However, I think that it's vital for both those large, locally-based companies who urge Arizonans to support them over companies headquartered outside of the state as well as those smaller Arizona-only places such as this one who do the same to ensure that those people whom they court have as fantastic an experience as possible, in a similar manner to the experiences I have had at Run AZ and Wildflower Bread Company.  If my simple (and long-winded) plaint can help local companies, then perhaps I've made a positive out of a negative.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Corned Beef, Cabbage, and a Day at the Farm

I had fully planned on a detailed report of our St. Patrick's Day feast, but I'll be honest - we were so busy eating, I completely forgot to take any pictures!
However, here is the menu.  It was amazing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Help Preserve AHCCCS

My friend Christie posted on her blog the consideration by the Arizona legislature of the possible funding cuts to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).  This would be devastating to her family as well as many others throughout the state.
Please take a moment to read Christie's entry to see what you can do to help urge the legislature to seek other avenues to solve the state's budget crisis.  This is an example of why sometimes a tax increase does need to come into play; there are already major slashes in educational funding (K-12 and higher ed), but this is beyond the pale.  Yes, something has to be done.  Cutting and cutting and cutting isn't the answer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lunch for Lily - an Open Invitation

On Friday, March 11 (this Friday), there will be a barbecue held to benefit Lily, who is the daughter of my co-worker Alicia.  Lily is the girl to whom we dedicated our London's Run participation.  She just started another round of chemotherapy this week.  I am amazed at her internal strength and continue to hope and pray that she is able to be an 11-year-old girl once again very soon.
If you are in the Phoenix metro area, I hope that you are able to spend your lunch break helping out Lily and her family:
  • Earnhardt Toyota
  • 6136 E Auto Loop Ave.
  • Mesa, AZ 85206
The event begins at 11:30 AM
Plates are $5.00; baked goods will also be sold.  I hope that I will see you there!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Heading South

After the Ryan House Run yesterday, Veronica and I headed to Tucson for a work event (we did get to go home and shower/relax before we had to leave).
Now, we left early for one reason: dinner.  We had talked about eating dinner beforehand for a while, and well, Man vs. Food, you are a quite the influence (after all, we DID run 6.2 miles that morning, so we were more than allowed to indulge).  The episode in Tucson helped us narrow down our selection to Lindy's on 4th or El Guero Canelo.  Now, while the menu at Lindy's looks uh-may-zeeng, we decided on El Guero Canelo because 1) it was closer to our destination and 2) two friends of ours told us to go there if we had to choose (although both said good things about Lindy's, too, so the decision was still a difficult one).
So we walk in and stared, dumbly, at the menu.
"What are you gonna get?"
"I don't know... what are you gonna get?"
"Not sure."
"The tortas look good."
"I'm definitely getting menudo.  Or maybe..."
After a good five minutes to such scintillating conversation, we both settled on the carne asada caramelo, as well as a side order of fresh flour tortillas and a Coke® (people in Arizona and other SW states will understand why we got a Mexican Coke®).
Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo delicious!  The caramelo was awesome - it was cheesy and full of pinto beans and carne asada.
There was less small talk as we inhaled everything (as Sun Devils in a Wildcat city, we also were careful not to be snarky at the amount of red and blue).  So so so good.  Thank you, Adam Richman.
Then... well, we wanted ice cream.
Beep-bop-boop-bope-bop-bope-beep (that was me dialing our friend's number, in case you weren't sure)
So in luck - there was an ice cream shop not far from our location that she emphatically recommended - Santa Barbara Ice Creamery.
I had a double scoop because I couldn't choose between the chocolate peanut butter and the chocolate raspberry truffle.  In hindsight, I don't know that I ever could - they were both so very tasty.
I was super bummed that I had left the camera at home and couldn't take pictures of our Tucson eating extravaganza, but I'm sure I will head to Tucson again at some point, and I'll be sure to snap some shots of whatever I hork down then.
In the meantime, enjoy this clip from the MvF episode (despite the dude wearing Arizona stuff... he can't help it).  We didn't have the Sonoran dog, but we both considered it.

The only bad thing about going somewhere that was featured on MvF - I had a dream last night that I tried to complete a food challenge, which appeared to consist of eating a large bowl of nanner puddin' as well as a large burrito.  I'm almost thankful to the dog for waking up at 4:30 with a potty emergency!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saving the World - Ryan House Run

I am exhausted.  This morning, I got up at 5:00, of my own volition, to head up to north north Scottsdale (not a typo - it was norther than north) to participate in the Ryan House Run.  This 10K (also a half marathon, 5K, and a fun run/walk) offers pediatric palliative care to children in Arizona.
I once again ran with my friends and co-workers Veronica and Christie, but I was also able to reconnect with a friend from high school as well as run into another friend of mine from college.  What a wonderful experience it was.
The benefit of being that far north of Phoenix proper (it wasn't really THAT far, but it felt like it) was that the route had gorgeous views.  The downside - HILLS.  Let me correct myself - some hills and then one HILL - a gigantic, long, never-ending hill of death.  I really had to keep reminding myself that I was doing this run, like the others, in order to reduce the suffering of others.  However, a side stitch did force me to walk for about 20 meters (not the end of the world, really, but I wasn't happy about it nonetheless).
Despite feeling like I was running through sand up that hill (did I mention it was long?) and the fact that I ended up walking a bit, I managed to finish the run in 58:06 (or 58:08 - I can't remember), 147th place overall.  I was SHOCKED that I finished more than 30 seconds faster than I did for London's Run, which was flat and didn't have hills (did I mention there was a hill?).
In the end, despite the hills, I am glad to have participated in a run that helped so many families.  They are the reason that I run, and I must remember that before I think about wimping out.

We all managed to smile after we were done...
or maybe because we were done!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Losing Resolve

All righty - here we are in March, so it's time for me to look back on the year-long and monthly goals I set for myself.  To review, I wanted to achieve the following in the first two months of the year:
  • January - take a multi-vitamin
  • February - floss daily
I am so-so with the vitamin.  I have placed the container on the counter, but I need to find a better spot, as it's not in a location where I look in the mornings (or really any time that I am eating).  Sometimes I wash it down with my morning coffee; other times I scrounge up an evening snack to get the deed done.  And then other days, like today, I totally space it and don't get that vitamin-y goodness.
As far as flossing, I bombed that one.  Flat bombed it.  I admit that I DID floss shortly before beginning this post, as if to impress my readers with slightly bleeding gums.  But really, I've been lazy.  Not even forgetful, just lazy. Yes, I have forgotten from time to time, but there are also nights when I think to myself, you know, you really need to floss.  Then I respond, meh, whatev, and go to bed.
Thus, instead of creating two new goals for March and April, I am adjusting what I have been doing.  While there are things that I really want to do, like get more of that yoga I promised myself in (as well as other cross-training), I need to get these down before I branch out into other areas.
That means that my new goals are the same goals as my first posting, but clearly I need to make sure they are more attainable this time around.
For the vitamin, I need to place the container in a spot in the kitchen where I'll actually look.  And, even though it might seem rather silly, I think I'll set myself a daily reminder on my work calendar so that I can't ignore it (well, at least as easily as I'm doing now).  As far as flossing, I need to think about how to get this done.  Clearly telling myself to do it hasn't worked out all that well for me, but I also can't ask someone else to do it for me.  Not sure what will do the trick, but I'll work on it.
Hopefully my next recap will be more positive so that I can turn these goals into the habits I'd like them to be.  That way, my next goals might be a little more exciting.