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May 28, 2016 – Old Town Tortilla Factory

Old Town Tortilla Factory

6910 East Main Street

Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480.945.4567

http://oldtowntortillafactory.com/index.php

Organized by: Fred and Karna

Fred and Karna took the reigns again this month and organized dinner at the Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottsdale. The restaurant is located in a very cute 75-year old adobe home. You enter through a huge flagstone patio surrounded by lots of pecan trees. Needless to say, the patio seating is amazing!

We started with the “award winning” margaritas that seemed a little watery and light on flavor. So we decided to change it up to a bottle of wine…at a Mexican restaurant with 120 tequilas. Not a good sign. Instead of tortilla chips like most Mexican restaurants, the Tortilla Factory provides warm homemade tortillas with butter. Rightly so. This was a interesting twist and the tortillas were pretty tasty.

From the starter menu we got a few orders of chips and salsa fuego and the much anticipated Chorizo Fundido. I was quite disappointed that it was light on the Chorizo, but heavy on the Fundido.

For dinner, the Red Chile Pork Chops was nicely presented and had good flavor. The green enchiladas with chicken, cheese, and tomatillo sauce was also good. Overall, I would say that the food was okay but I probably wouldn’t come back just for that. The best part of the dinner was certainly the ambiance of the beautiful patio!

We opted not to order dessert and instead part of the group walked down the block to the Hotel Valley Ho for cocktails and dessert. The Valley Ho has been a Scottsdale landmark since 1956. The hotel was renovated in 2005 and brought back to its modern 60’s vibe. The ZuZu lounge had a fun design of 60s modern bar stools, minimalist couches with clean sharp lines and yet still looked comfortable and soft. Since we were there at night, there was a soft red glo giving everything a fun artsy vibe.

We opted to sit outside at the Cafe Zu Zu taking full advantage before the Arizona weather kicked into full gear. When first sitting down, I made the mistake of asking the hostess how long the hotel had been open knowing that it was a landmark but not much else. The young girl sheepishly looked at me and said “I really should know this, but I don’t.” Yes dear. You really should.

After a rousing discussion of Scottsdale vs. Gilbert socialites, we delved into libations. I tried the Bourbon Smash which was Maker’s Mark, muddled lemon, mint, simple syrup, club soda, and lemon peel. Someone else tried the Blackberry Mule of vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and blackberry and Tony went with a Manhattan.

For dessert, we tried the Raspberry Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie, and Caramel Macchiat”Oh” Cheesecake. The cocktails and desserts were delicious and were a nice ending to a fun evening of heated political discussions and lots of good times and laughter.

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Posted by on 05/28/2016 in Mexican

 

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September 27 – The Market by Jennifer’s

The Market by Jennifer’s
3603 E Indian School Rd Suite A
Phoenix, AZ 85018
602.626.5050
http://themarketbyjennifers.com/

Organized by: Janice

The DDs (minus Fred and Pat who couldn’t make it) made our way to Arcadia this month to check out a local kitchen right in the same parking lot as Beckett’s Table and others. Hidden a little on the side of the plaza the restaurant had a cozy charming feel with an open seating area that is clean and simple without being stuffy, a beautiful wrap around patio, and a view into the kitchen to watch the magic happen.

Fred S demonstrated some of his playa skillz and hung out with the ladies at one table while the rest of the boys pretended like it was the playground at grade school hiding away from the girls and telling dirty jokes. 😉

Originally started as a catering company, Jennifer Russo-Fitzgerald used her magic to create a fun place to showcase her culinary innovations. Not only do they offer a great dine-in experience, there is also Curbside Catering offered as well as a Grab N’Go counter.

With a seasonal menu that offers fresh local ingredients, you are sure not to get bored by a variety of dining options. We started with some happy hour wine selections and some cocktails. The Black and Blue Mojito made with blackberries was divine and dangerous. It would be so easy to enjoy way to many of that refreshing beverage.

For starters we tried some of the options from the rotating “Bites” menu. This week it was the Meatball sliders with roasted San Marzano tomato sauce, the Fried Prosciutto/Provolone Balls with Garlic aioli, Grilled Chipotle BBQ wings, Cheddar & Italian Parsley nachos and Chili & Chive “Dirty Pop” popcorn. Very tasty way to start the evening!

Market by Jennifer’s was participating in Restaurant Week so some of us decided to try to prixe fixe options. This included selections such as the butternut squash & crème fresh soup; grilled cheese with white cheddar, gruyere and honey on a fresh brioche; fresh pasta with pancetta, parmigiano reggiano, poached egg and crisp prosciutto; and free range chicken with skin & crispy artichoke hearts paired with grilled corn polenta. All of these dishes were divine, but none made me swoon like the pasta with pancetta and poached egg that Ann so brilliantly chose.

Some other excellent choices for dinner was the roasted asparagus soup (which was better than the butternut squash if that was possible); the perfectly cooked ricotta gnocchi with peas, fava beans, Parmesan, and prosciutto; and the crispy salmon with roasted baby zucchini, saffron, baby onions, and natural jus. (FYI we heard that this was Jennifer’s signature dish! )

For dessert we ordered the lavendar crème brulee which was sadly a little disappointing, the HUGE chipwich ice cream sandwich, and the mason jar of lemon meringue pie.

In addition to watching a huge summer storm rage outside, we were also entertained with some live indie music by a guy who looked like he was channeling Johnny Cash. Thankfully, the music did not start until we were well into dinner and the volume so it did not drown out the good time we were having, but it was nice to add to the fun evening with some good music!

Pretty soon we were forced to say adieu and try to race the next wave of storms back to our part of the valley. Thank you Janice for picking a delicious place that also supports local farmers and merchants!

 
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Posted by on 09/27/2014 in American

 

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Art and cuisine on Calle 16

Barrio Café
2814 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
602-636-0240
www.barriocafe.com
Organized by: Janice
 

Besides being an integral part of this neighborhood in Phoenix, Chef Silvana has created a place of legend with the original Barrio Café. Although she has now expanded to Barrio Queen in Scottsdale and even offers samples of her treasures to travelers at Sky Harbor Airport, it was a treat to be able to visit the place where it all began.

Barrio Café is not big, nor is it ostentatious with a ritzy location. Instead it is in Phoenix on 16th street at the entrance of an urban neighborhood and surrounded by strip malls with local businesses. The place is decorated in art by local artists which rotates every few months, showing Chef Silvana’s focus on promoting the people in our community. In addition, the exterior is covered in clever, colorful, and creative murals as part of the Calle 16 Mural Project, which celebrates the vibrant culture and Mexican heritage of the area. (for more on this check out our Links section!)

No reservations are accepted and seating is strictly on a first come, first serve basis. This means you need to get there early if you have a large group because Barrio Café has a reputation for magic and it is only growing with every passing day.

They do have a Happy Hour with super great discounts on their margaritas and Buck any Tacos but the downside is that it is only from 3-5pm on Tuesday thru Friday.

We tried a few different margarita options such as the Flaca (skinny marg with organic silver tequila, agave, and lime); the signature Lowrider (Don Julio Blanco with lime and Cointreau), and the Sergio el Suave (Milagro Anejo with pineapple, lime, agave, cilantro, and candid jalapeno). Warning these margs are smoooooth and go down like water but they pack a punch!

We started with the Guacamole del Barrio and Esquites (similar but not the same to the signature dish of Elote). The table-side guacamole was insane. So fresh with large chunks of avocado instead of just green mash. A special seasonal treat of pomegranate seeds were also included which gave it a nice bit of sweetness. Many of us also ordered the iconic dish of Chef Silvana which is the Chiles en Nogada (roasted poblano pepper filled with chicken, apple, pear, dried apricot, and pecans topped with almond cream sauce and cilantro, queso fresco, and pomegranate seeds). This dish was delicious! The sauce was much sweeter than expected and if you tried the pepper with just the filling it had a nice soft spice that could easily stand on its own without too much sauce.

We also tried a couple different Pescado del Dia since it was wild Alaskan Halibut; Veracruz style with onion, tomato, and black and green olives; and del Mar topped with shrimp, scallops, crab, chorizo, onion and roasted poblano. Yum!

Bill absolutely raved about his Enchiladas Suizas red onion, cilantro, Mexicana crema, and topped with chorizo. He said the chorizo was so perfectly done and not too greasy. It was so good he HAD to finish it all and left with “painfully full” tummy.

Don who is our resident Mole connoisseur ordered the Pollo en Mole and tried both the sweeter black and the spicier red. Both passed the Don test with a thumb’s up! Fred K had the center cut bone-in pork chop with chile sauce. He said it was cooked perfectly and the sauce was a sweeter chile sauce, which he enjoyed very much.

For dessert we sampled the Flan de mi Mami (traditional flan topped with candied pecans) and the Churros Rellanos de Cajeta de Cabra (churros filled with goat’s milk caramel and served with vanilla bean ice cream, more caramel, and candied pecans.) Whoo – talk about sweet but rich in flavor! But I wouldn’t expect anything less from a chef that started in a family Mexican bakery.

There is live music on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, as well as on Sunday afternoon. When we were there on a Saturday evening we enjoyed an upbeat duo with a guitar (and perhaps a conga drum?). Either way, they were fun, upbeat, and they graciously sang Happy Birthday to our very own Fred S. J

There was so much riding on this visit for me because of all the great things I had heard about it already and I am so pleased that they lived up to my every expectation! I can now say that I was able to enjoy the Barrio Café experience.

 
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Posted by on 09/14/2013 in Latin, Mexican

 

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A night for bons vivants – homemade pasta and wine at VinciTorio’s

VinciTorio’s 
1835 E Elliot Rd C-109
Tempe, AZ 85284
480-820-2786
http://www.vincitoriosrestaurant.com/
Organized by Fred and Karna S.
 

The Double D’s met up again in July to experience VinciTorio’s Italian Restaurant in Tempe. And yes, I mean not just visit, but experience it. The night we visited was also the night of the dueling pianos in the wine bar (Enoteca) section of the restaurant. There are other live music offerings in the wine bar during the week – such as Sarah Vanell who we have seen before at Vintage 95 – however the dueling pianos are only once a month, so reservations are required. There is a quieter dinning side if you are not in the mood for song and dance, but trust me…you would be missing out.

We started with a bottle of 14 Hands Chardonay (Washington) for some and a bottle – then another – of Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah (Sonoma County). The Syrah was delicious and a little bit lighter, which was nice for the summer evening.

All of our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. Surprisingly all the men chose a salad and all the ladies ordered the cream of mushroom soup, at Karna’s recommendation. The soup was tasty and quite thick and creamy with little pieces of mushrooms included.

The entrees were well-prepared classic rustic Italian dishes: Raviloi di Formaggio (four cheeses), Raviloi Carbonara (sauteed bacon), Spaghetti Bolognese, Raviloi di Zucca (butternut squash), Linguine Vongole (clams), and Gnocchi Garganico – just to name a few. What sets these dishes apart is the focus on quality. The raviloi, trofie (short rolled shells), and gnocchi are all made in-house by Mario and his team. The remainder of the pasta is imported from Italy and made fresh daily. The tomato-basil sauce on top of the cheese raviloi and the gnocchi was refreshing and flavorful as opposed to a heavy marinara sauce. There was an extra abundance of sauce on the raviloi which could probably be reduced but it was tasty all the same. The linguine with clams was quite a bit heavier than expected and it is a large portion but the white-wine broth was good. The special of the evening was chicken stuffed with cheese in a marinara sauce paired with gnocchi in a cheese sauce. It was a lot of food, but delicious. Don enjoyed the gnocchi so much that he wished he could secretly lick the plate before they whisked it away. To sum it up the food was not overly pretentious, rather it was classic dishes with simple quality ingredients that allowed you to enjoyed the meal and not overwhelm your senses.

The service was exceptional. Mario (the owner) was very visible walking around the restaurant making sure that all the guests were taken care of. Water glasses were regularly filled, dishes were cleared quickly after you were done, and question or need was quickly addressed by a courteous employee, and all this with a very packed house. You could see the staff bustling around and clearly focused on making sure that everything was taken care of. Even when we left, staff that we had not even seen before were thanking us for coming and bidding us good night. This made for a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere during the entire evening.

The dueling pianos was a special treat which was lively and entertaining. Some of the girls in our group were dancing fools and enjoying every minute while some of the guys (I’m looking at you two, Bill and Don) were in agony. They are not fans of their wives dancing and signing at the table and this just gave them the freedom to do it all night and quite loudly.

All in all, it was an extremely fun evening with singing, dancing, lots of laughter, good food and wine, and great friends. Another successful DD’s event – thanks so much Karna and Fred!

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Posted by on 07/28/2013 in Italian, Pizza, Wine Bar

 

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Pestos Pizza and Wine Bar

Pestos Pizza and Wine Bar
1960 W Ray Rd Suite 4
Chandler, AZ
Ph 480.821.2949
http://pestospizza.com/
Organized by: Jen and Don Westhafer
 
Merry Christmas! It’s time again for the DDs holiday party and wine exchange! This year we had a theme of Scarves and Hats. You can see from the pics who chose what to wear. Please pay special attention to Ann’s “honey bee” hat for it is quite adorable.

Pestos is a favorite of many of the DDs but we have never visited there as a group, so this was a great choice for our holiday get together. We started with some appetizers which included a sampler of Stuffed Mushrooms, a special dish of figs wrapped in bacon (hello, heaven!) and tasty bruschetta.

Dinner included various dishes from lasagna, calzones, meat pizzas (hello, heartburn), and grilled chicken dishes. Pestos also does a great job with cocktails especially the Blueberry Lemondrop (pictured).

Jay and Bill again did their best to avoid the camera but Sarah was able to sneak one picture of the ever mysterious Jay-man. This evidence should sell for millions on eBay!

The wine/beer/alcohol exchange was again a fun time with some tears of loss offset with tears of joy as gifts were stolen. We missed the company of Fred and Karna but know that we will see them soon. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

apps and martini group jay and bill jay ladies

 
 

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September 29, 2012 – St Francis

St. Francis
111 E Camelback Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85012
602.200.8111
http://www.stfrancisaz.com
Hours: M-Th 11-10/ F 11-11/ Sat 9-11/ Sun 9-9
Brunch served on Saturday and Sunday 9-2:30
Organized by: Jenn Harrison
 
There is something magical about visiting a restaurant that has such a fun archeticural style mixed with a great vibe and cuisine. St Francis is located in downtown Phoenix amongst large car dealerships but somehow all that falls away when you visit. The Double Ds seemed to have a place of honor at a great large table that is in a gorgeous glass alcove happily jutting out into the landscape. Named as an homage to San Francisco and the local St Francis community neighborhood, the restaurant is not only pleasing to the tastbuds but also to the eye with the beautiful exposed brick, modernly fashionable bathrooms, and appealing art that lines the walls.
 
Happy Hour is available everyday until 6pm and some of the regular menu items are available for less which is a great chance for you to try more than one dish.  It’s not Ds without cocktails and this night was no different. St Francis offers delicious signature cocktails such as St Francis Lemonade and Cucumber Cooler featuring homemade syrups. I had to make sure they weren’t a one-hit wonder so I tried another Lemonade, then another, then another…yup, always bursting with amazing flavors.
 
Dishes can be seasonal and this time there were some options with a fall twist. Karna and I tried the pumpkin soup which was very good and with an unexpected pomegranate seed. Fred enjoyed the Pork Chop with chestnut puree, savoy cabbage, bacon, and whole grain mustard pork au jus and I ordered the Pot Roast with sweet corn polenta, mushrooms, horseradish, celery, and fresh herbs. The flavor was fantastic but the cut of meat was too fatty for my taste in that dish. Many of the rest of the dinner dishes came from the happy hour menu but are also offered on the dinner menu as well. Tasty options such as the savory Pork Chili Verde; the not so bad Meatballs with moroccan spice,hen egg, and pearl pasta; and the killer French Onion Burger made with smoken bacon, gruyere, and crispy onions. It has bacon, of course it wins! Next time I really must try a pizza in their wood fired oven. So many dishes, so little time.
 
We were pretty stuffed but we had to try the deserts. We all shared the seasonal Pumpkin Cheescake in a Jar topped with candied walnuts and the Chocolate Stout Cake served with a cinnamon smoked chile gelato. Oh, yes. I said cinnamon chile gelato with moist chocolate cake. Nom, nom.
 
Parking is tough because of the limited space but a friendly and personable complementary valet is ready and waiting to help so you and your friends can have a wonderful D kind of visit.
 
 
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Posted by on 09/29/2012 in American, Pizza

 

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March 24, 2012 – Vintage 95 Wine Lounge

Vintage 95 Wine Lounge
95 W Boston St
Chandler, AZ 85225
480.855.WINE (9463)
http://vintage95.com/
Organized by: Fred and Pat Kagie
 

For the Double D’s, March Madness this year doesn’t mean basketball, rather it means visiting our March dinner spot  right smack in the middle of the Chandler beer and BBQ festival. Parking took skill and quick wits, but the gold at the end of the rainbow is a nice glass of wine!

We ventured back to the same area as last month and visited a wine bar in the bustling downtown Chandler district called Vintage 95. They have a fun and decorative interior décor and a well furnished outdoor patio. Don’t forget to take a look at the glass walled wine cellar with a beautiful chandelier and the ornate and eye-catching double door.  Jen (who is always savvy about deals) knew that they will offer you a free charcuterie “cooked cold meats” board with every bottle of wine purchase before 6pm. Naturally, we took advantage and sampled some of the available options which can be found on their market board on the wall.

Sarah and Karna split the Pear Salad which was okay, but were glad that wasn’t the entrée. The vinaigrette was more oily than vinegary and the crispy pancetta was closer to tooth busting bits.

For entrees, Ann tried the Vintage Flatbread which is a surprisingly cold dish and with enough arugula on top to feed a couple of rabbits. She was enjoying it until she tasted Jay’s dinner, the Vintage Burger, which was brimming with flavors from the Angus beef, tender belly bacon, onion straws, cheddar cheese, and chipotle thousand island sauce. The Veggie Flatbread was scrumptious with mushroom, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers and they certainly did not skimp on the cheese which was house made mozzarella. The san marzano sauce also gave it a nice flavor with a small bit of spice.

The Portabella Mushroom with tomatillo risotto and a charred tomato coulis was okay but would not make another appearance at our table. On the other hand, red rover would most certainly send the NY Strip and Pork Chop, right back over. The NY Strip was a huge piece of steak positioned atop bone marrow mashed potatoes and accompanied by red onion green beans and a rosemary red wine demi glaze. Those who enjoyed it had audible confirmations of tastiness. The Pork Chop was also delicious and consisted of a tender belly Berkshire pork chop with apple bread pudding, pancetta brussel sprouts, and a sherry beurre blanc.

While we typically opt to avoid live music so we can have conversations and get caught up with friends, Sarah Vanell provided possibly the best live music in quite some time. It was apparent that she was something amazing when she nailed the first note of Adele. Unlike amateurs who attempt (and fail miserably) to sing Adele after one or several margaritas (your truly), Sarah delighted us with a fantastic version that had a little bit of a twist to make it her own. She is a regular on Thursdays and Saturdays, and since Vintage 95 has outdoor speakers, diners can enjoy her music either indoors or out. Her link is available on the right side of our page so you can sample (and maybe purchase) some of her magical vocals.

While the menu options had both hits and misses, the atmosphere was very comfortable, the wine was very good, the service was attentive, and we got to spend time with friends. Those added together makes for another successful Double Ds!

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Posted by on 03/24/2012 in American, Wine Bar

 

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