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January 24, 2015 – Tuck Shop

Tuck Shop: neighborhood comfort food

2245 N 12th St Phoenix, AZ

602.354.2980

http://www.tuckinphx.com/

Organized by: Ann and Jay

 

In 2015, the DDs will celebrate 5 years of dining shenanigans! 5 years, people! I think this is a testament to the amazing group of people that we have. Love them all 🙂

Since we are at a milestone year, we did a little reminiscing by going back to an oldie but a goodie, Tuck Shop in Phoenix. The first time we visited this cozy home of deliciousness 3 years ago was after seeing it on an episode of Check Please Arizona. Now a few of us have made this a frequent haunt but we haven’t been back as a group since. It can sometimes be scary to revisit a love from the past because time and memories have a way of exaggerating our feelings, but today’s trip did not fall prey to that possibility.

The first time we visited was the first time I had experienced the gentrification that is happening in the historic Coronado district of old homes being turned into cozy dining places. I remember feeling like a behemoth the first time. Like some giant trampling around a quaint village and trying to fold myself into a small cube in order not to disturb other diners. Since then, we have visited many different locations that are “creative” with the limited space they have and I was pleased to see that Tuck Shop this time seemed roomy and welcoming yet intimate. Funny thing is that they didn’t change, I did.

Luckily the food hadn’t changed and was just as delectable as I remembered. As usual, we started with some cocktails such as my personal favorite the 12th&Oak, made with a dangerous mix of Southern Comfort and orange liquor. It is just sour enough for me and just sweet enough to make you forget that this should not be consumed in great quantities – if you plan on being upright tomorrow. We also really enjoyed the French75 that is made with bubbly, a rum cocktail, and a ginger mule. Muah!

Then we moved onto some appetizers that obviously included a few orders of cheese curds. This almost seems like an unwritten law when visiting Tuck Shop. Made from local dairy farmers and beer battered, they are light and creamy yet rich with taste. We also had the parsnip and potato poutine but this was not one of my favorites. I like my poutine to be a little messier. A little more sinful. The poutine at Tuck Shop was too clean. Too well behaved. The Fontina Sticks of cheese with panko & walnut crust were good but a little light in flavor however the sweet pear sauce was a nice touch. The Stuffed Medjool Dates with Schreiner’s chorizo, melted gruyere and dressed arugula was delish. The chorizo was a bit spicy but having it as the surprise middle of the dates made for an amazing balance of spicy and sweet.

For the main dish we had quite a variety of fantastic options. There was the Eggplant Parm which is not the standard dish you would imagine; the citrus-brined chicken (and a hint of honey) paired with white-cheddar waffles and green beans; the Pine AZ Spiced Steak dry rubbed and served with parmesan lentil mashed Yukons; and the red beans & rice made with fresh linguisa sausage and topped with a skewer of grilled creole shrimp.

There was also the Ropa Vieja Chili with corn johnnycakes, cojita cream, and super fine sweet potato haystacks. It had had a flavorful spice and even a green olive surprise. The roasted Brussel Sprouts with white wine, mustard cream, and crushed almonds were such a delight. The magicians at Tuck Shop turned something that is a childhood nightmare and made it into the stuff of dreams. Some of the guys also ordered the Meat and Three special which tonight was tender lamb shanks with tortilla soup and a Yukon Gold potato stuffed with bacon. Result = fantastic!

For dessert, we ordered both the chocolate bread with hazelnut frosting and the pear tart in a French pastry crust with homemade whipped cream. The chocolate bread was good but was a little dry and improved greatly when we tried it with the whipped cream. The pear tart was amazing and the crust was buttery and flaky. I typically don’t like whipped cream because it can taste empty and soul-less but this whipped cream was the real deal. You know, the kind that is rich yet delicate and mixed with the flavor of mom’s kitchen and sprinkled with Christmas.

Our trip down memory lane was not a scary episode and Tuck Shop made sure that they served up a dose of the magic that made us love them 3 years ago. The only thing missing was the rest of our group who couldn’t make it or else it would have been a perfect evening.

 May the roof above us never fall down and we friends below never fall out. – an Irish toast

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Posted by on 01/24/2015 in American

 

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Feb 22 – One for you, Thai for me

Yupha’s Thai Kitchen
1805 E Elliot Rd
Tempe, AZ 85284
480-839-0576
http://yuphasthaikitchen.com/
 
Organized by Tony and Kelly

After hearing a few rave reviews from friends about Yupha’s Thai Kitchen, we knew it was a matter of time before we wound up haunting the tables of this popular Tempe kitchen.

The place was busy – and I mean PACKED – but since we had a group larger than five, we were able to make reservations and be seated right away. The restaurant is not enormous by any means and they try to make the best use of the space so tables are quite close together and it can be a little loud with all the conversation. Still, this slightly crowded atmosphere actually gives the place a feel of a casual neighborhood location where everyone just goes to have a great meal with friends or family. Because of the traffic, you can expect some delays in service but rest assured everyone is on the floor working, even Yupha herself who is regularly roaming the floor and helping with whatever is needed.

First, we opened some bottles of wine (naturally) and then we got started with some Thai Rolls and Corn Fritters. The Thai Rolls are light and crunchy and served with a delicious plum sauce while the Corn Fritters are made of crispy sweet corn with cilantro and served with a sweet and tangy cucumber salad. Both were absolutely excellent and a perfect way to start the meal!

When ordering your dish, Yupha offers six different spice levels. That’s right folks…six! Mild, medium, hot, Thai hot, double Thai hot, and “I don’t want to have anymore internal organs” triple Thai hot. Some of us started with medium since it was a new place for us but we are fans of spice and those that did thought we could have bumped it up to hot. Tony braved the firing squad and ordered his Boat Noodle (meatballs, noodle, broth, and bean sprouts) in Thai hot. He survived and we all agreed that it was quite a tasty spice. Pat and Sarah both ordered Drunken Noodles in medium and could have moved up a notch but Bill got it right the first time, ordering it in “hot”. Either way, the flavors of the Napa cabbage, peppers, onion, egg, chili pepper, and Thai basil in a soy sauce were absolutely outstanding!

Fred S thoroughly enjoyed his repeat performance of the yellow curry and Fred K said his Pla Lad Prik (crispy Tilapia with Thai spicy sweet chili sauce) was exceptional. Don and Kelly raved over their choice of the weekly red curry special filled with sautéed veggies and aptly called the Evil Jungle Princess. I always appreciate a restaurant with humor!

There was a delay with Karna’s Crying Tiger but once she finally tasted her grilled rib eye with “our sauce”, cucumbers, tomatoes, and served with an Emerald dipping sauce, she enjoyed it. Especially the Emerald sauce that she exclaimed was “worth it”.

Jen and Ann debated who ordered the better option between their eggplant and cashew chicken dishes while Janice wisely stayed out of it and just enjoyed both. Jay put on his man-pants and ordered a dish with a spicy Thai herb broth that came with a warning from the server. His gamble paid off and it was loaded with flavor!

We were stuffed but we made a little room in the waistband to try some of the desserts. Score one for us! First up was the weekly special of the Swan in Love, two handcrafted éclairs served with strawberry, raspberry and blueberry, a splash of Grand Marnier, and topped with Honey Greek yogurt. Then we scarfed down the homemade coconut ice cream with fried banana as well as the ever-popular coconut sticky rice. I was so pleased to hear from Yupha that they only serve mango when it is in season. She is more concerned with the quality of the food rather than offering a standard dessert at any time during the year. Cheers to that!

Lastly, we enjoyed a new surprise which was the Thai custard made with Pandanus Leaf (Bai Dteuy). The little ramekin filled with green custard was a completely new adventure and so tasty! We were so intrigued, that Yupha brought out a cookbook to explain the nature of the Pandanus Leaf, which she called the “vanilla bean of Asia”. She was also quick to clarify that they do not cook out of cookbooks rather “these are my momma’s recipes!”  How can you not love this woman who has such a passion for her restaurant and the product she delivers?!

We were so engrossed in devouring our delicious food that we even forgot to take pictures but we did manage to snap a few of the desserts before we gobbled them up.

Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines so I can be quite particular, but Yupha’s Thai Kitchen really hit the mark! It is easy to see why Yupha was named one of Top 45 Chefs in Arizona and the restaurant has won multiple awards. The atmosphere, flavors, and quality of the ingredients really won a Tastebud Oscar from this group!

fried banana with coconut ice cream Swans in Love

 
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Posted by on 02/22/2014 in Thai

 

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