Sunday, August 22, 2010

No Place Like Home... Except Maybe Phoenix

One of the best things about visiting Phoenix is the wide open space. You can enjoy views of mountains and clouds relatively untainted by buildings, wires, and such. Not that I have anything against buildings, wires, and such. But they aren't nearly as soothing as a view of Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak) or the colorful desert landscape.

Mexican Bird-of-Paradise, a fiesta of color. I didn't take this photo.

You can take GMS out of the city but you can't take the city out of GMS. While I do enjoy Phoenix for its bucolic charms - like chicken fried steak emporiums - I was delighted to find that since my last few visits it has become a foodie haven, with up-and-coming gems like Postino Central, a place that would be right at home on 3rd Street or Culver Boulevard. Foodies, winos, and hipsters flock here for a variety of gourmet nibbles that complement an array of wines, including the first "wine on tap" to be served in the city.

The lyrics from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" are painted on a bright yellow wall: "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?" Our mid-afternoon snack at Postino's was so good that we didn't miss the pudding.

David ordered a wheat beer and I opted for the cucumber honey lemonade, which was definitely the most colorful beverage in the place. The first sip tasted like I was drinking the juice out of a jar of bread and butter pickles but after that, it was truly fabulous and refreshing.

Bug juice, all grown up.

Although the summer heat doesn't usually put soup on my to-do list, the clever heading of "Soup of the Moment" got my attention. I enjoyed the chicken and wild rice soup, which was satisfyingly earthy with mushrooms, but there was bigger game ahead. And I mean big.

The desert might have taken billions of years to develop. But we'll settle for the "Soup of the Moment" at Postino.

Despite the fact that we could choose four different toppings for the bruschetta, I envisioned four polite little oblongs of toasted bread with artfully arranged toppings, just enough for a taste. I was pleasantly surprised when our one-armed server delivered a wooden board that held huge slices of fresh and light sheepherder bread. His left arm was in a sling, probably from hefting one too many orders of bruschetta like ours, which was topped generously with warm artichoke spread, brie and apples with fig spread, roasted peppers with goat cheese, and albacore with gaeta olives.

Everything's bigger in the desert. Even the appetizers.

My low-level Japanese food warning light had been on for a couple of days, so we headed to Hana Japanese Eatery on Missouri Street. David, who was spoiled by ready access to great Japanese food during 20-plus years of living in Los Angeles, has raved about Hana since it opened three years ago. With a menu that includes a full sushi bar and homey favorites like gyoza, kaki oysters, pork katsu and homemade tsukemono, it is the best Japanese restaurant in Phoenix and possibly in the entire state of Arizona.

GMS's"Hashi-Cam" attacks fried oysters and tempura.

We chatted with Lori Hashimoto and Lynn Becker, who with Lori's family, own and operate Hana. Lori twitters food trucks in L.A. regularly and Lynn told us where all of the good Asian markets were within a 20-mile radius. I'm pretty spoiled at home with cities like Gardena and Westminster that offer a comprehensive picture of Asian cuisine with streets full of markets and restaurants. The lack thereof in Phoenix makes a place like Hana a real oasis.

Back to basics. Hana's ramen with yakibuta pork and miso broth.

Thus fortified with tastes of the gastronomic hustle and bustle back home in L.A., I was once more ready to marvel at the natural beauty that surrounds the fifth largest city in the United States. And maybe go for another chicken fried steak.

Too busy taking pictures of food to get nature shots. I did take this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment