I Have a healthy, nearly full term food baby that Chef Becky Windels & The Herb Box restaurant are responsible for! This quaint little Bistro/cafe’ Located on Market Street in Scottsdale’s uber chic DC Ranch Area, is a gift to the culinary world. Having happily enjoyed several of their sweet baked offerings, I decided to give the lunch menu a spin, what followed was a lesson in how to do food right!
Shortly after being seated by a cheerful, smiling hostess our server Maria dropped by to take our drink order and let us know what the day’s specials were. After looking through the menu I settled on the Rosemary Steak Ciabatta sandwich prepared with charred onion, watercress, white cheddar cheese and a Dijon mayonnaise. A side of the Smoked Gouda Mac N’ Cheese with crispy Rosemary breadcrumbs and an order of Crisp Fingerling potatoes sprinkled with sea salt and served with a side of house made red pepper aioli.
While all of this food might be a case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach, I simply couldnt resist trying a little of everything. After a short wait, the food arrived and I was certain I’d made great choices. The Steak sandwich was cooked to order, a little short of medium on the softest ciabatta roll I’ve had, piled high beside it were sweet potato chips dusted with curry powder (why have I never had this before?)
Biting into the sandwich, I experienced the carefully crafted mix of flavors and textures that a great chef strives to achieve. The steak was juicy and well complimented by the rosemary, crunchy watercress for added texture and the tanginess of aged white cheddar, all nicely brought together by the Dijon mayo. The house made sweet potato chips are brightened and brought to life by a deft sprinkling of curry powder making you want to eat more than you should (yes, they sell them to-go and I have a bag atop my fridge for a late night snack!)
Let’s talk Mac N’ Cheese. I’m going to say it… The Smoked Gouda Mac at The Herb Box is simply the best I’ve ever had! Creamy cheese and al dente’ pasta topped with crunchy rosemary breadcrumbs made this my new favorite dish. Yes, I know, everyone has a favorite Mac N’ Cheese but forget about them! Try this dish and you will be sold! (I didn’t forget to order a portion to-go…I know what’s going on at 2 AM when I have the munchies!!)
What’s a steak sandwich without potatoes? Yup, ordered them! A tasty side of smashed, crisped fingerling potatoes served with a delicious red pepper aioli disappeared just as fast as I could dip and eat! (I can see dropping in for any one of the items I’ve mentioned so far but together they are DANGEROUS!)
okay, clearly I was done eating and in need of both the check and a pillow but enter Maria again who eagerly suggested I try the pistachio ice cream sandwich cookie. Never one to ignore the recommendation of a foodservice professional, I agreed that I should have one and what came next was wrong in so many ways I’m almost at a loss for words.
Now I’ve never had pistachio ice cream though I’ve always heard it was tasty but this was extraordinary. My mouth and taste buds were assaulted by the flavors of almond, pistachio, strawberries, blackberries and a delicious thick creme’, the crunch of the cookies was the perfect counterpoint to the cold soft ice cream and the fruit just completed the sensation. Think that was the end? Try again, the dessert case beckons with such a variety of scrumptious looking treats that must be seen to be believed.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a BIG fan of The Herb Box and Chef Becky’s Cuisine, if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit, make it a point or I assure you, you’re missing out!
I’ve been hearing rumblings of a new burger joint called LUSH in North Scottsdale and had two of the most important ingredients yesterday to warrant a visit; Hunger and time! My trusty pal “Mikey” (she’ll eat anything), and I jumped into the car and drove on over to Lush Burger located in DC Ranch Crossing (southeast corner of pima & legacy boulevard) 18251 north pima road, for what we call “a Derty feed”).
The first thing I noticed on parking in front was that the patio set-up looked like any number of Scottsdale clubs with long, low couches and bright colors. I wondered if this was a burger joint of just another place to “be seen.” Walking inside you immediately come upon a fast-food style counter with LED TV style menu boards that are becoming the “must have” item for hip new eateries and a bubbly teen welcoming us to Lush.
After the above mentioned teen gave us the rundown on how things work at Lush (order with her, find a table and then everything becomes full service), we had a look at the menu. There were several burger offerings with “chic” names including the ‘Money” (Kobe beef of course, and should have been “$$$” instead of “money” at $12), and the “infusion” (a 100% Angus beef patty infused with green chile’s and pepper jack cheese $10), and of course the obligatory potato offerings including 50/50 fries (half sweet potato and half regular) and their signature Truffle fries (chives, white truffle and parmesan).
I ordered the truffle fries, the Infusion burger (the “chef” suggests medium), and a Sonoran Draft root beer. We found seats along the counter that were covered in black and white cowhide and waited for our food. After a while, another bubbly staff member arrived with baskets of fries smelling vaguely of truffle, followed by tasty looking burgers.
The fries were hot, skinny and crisp which I love, but didn’t really have the truffle flavor that I was looking for (okay, it was there but very faint and none of the staff seemed able to tell me what they used though I suspect truffle salt), a “B” then. On to the object of this review, the Infusion.. . I applied a bit of the chipotle aioli, grabbed up my burger, took a bite and promptly got drenched with all of the juice running out of it, down my arms and splashing off of the plate.. While this definitely indicated that it wasn’t a dry overcooked burger and I love a little mess with my meals, I thought this a tad much.
Let’s talk taste. The burger was juicy as I’ve said, and it had good taste and texture but I wasn’t getting the flavor of the green chiles and the pepper jack that it was infused with was only vaguely present. I would have to say it was about a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
The service was great with cute girls doting over us and eagerly supplying us with whatever we might need and the place is definitely worth a second visit (they are working out the kinks since they’ve only been open 24 days or so), but I would say this isn’t my favorite burger joint (it’s actually almost too nice to be referred to as a “joint”).
One notable piece of the puzzle was the Sonoran Root beer on tap served in a properly chilled glass. With just the rite amount of vanilla combined with smooth, creamy root beer goodness, this root beer (at $4/glass), was worth the trip by itself. Check them out on twitter.
Over-all, I give Lush Burger a solid 7 out of 10. If your looking for a place to be seen, have a decent meal and chill, it’s not a bad option but if your looking for a GREAT burger, you’ll have to keep looking. (I happen to know where to find one).
While in Memphis, TN for the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Competition, my mother took me to try Gus’s Fried Chicken. Apparently Gus’s is a Memphis tradition and a must visit if youre in town.
Now I’m a fried chicken lover from way back, some of my earliest culinary memories are of my Great Grandmother butchering and frying up chicken in her big cast iron skillet (my mouth is watering just thinking about it), but I am always dubious of “World Famous” anything.
I am positive that the following statement will start all kinds of debate but I’m going to say it anyway, “This was the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten!” There, the gauntlet has been thrown down, let the debate begin.
First off, Gus’s is in a seedy part of town surrounded by abandoned buildings and is itself located in a rundown building but… as you approach, the first thing you notice is a LONG line out front to get in (foodies recognize this as a good sign). After waiting for what seemed like an eternity to get inside, I saw that there were only about 10 small tables inside, bare concrete and absolutely “no frills.” After another 20 minutes of patient waiting, we were ushered to a table and handed very simple menus.
I’ve got to tell you, the smells coming from the simple, open kitchen could drive a man insane and watching hot, steaming trays piled high with fried chicken almost made me lose my manners and get a little grabby! After what seemed like forever, the waiter took our order (an 8 piece meal, fried rice, beans and sweet tea), and we began to wait again…
After about 45 minutes, and much salivating, our meal arrived and boy was it worth the wait. The chicken was served on a plastic tray lined with wax paper, the beans and rice in styrofoam cups and there was of course plain white bread. Picking up a breast, the savory, spicy smell wafted into my nostrils and I took my first bite.
The skin was crisp, crunchy and perfectly seasoned, followed by molten hot juices running down my mouth and hands…it was nirvana!.
I can only reiterate that this humble little unpretentious restaurant really should be world famous if it isn’t already. Oh and don’t take my word for it, have a look at what Yelp! and Urbanspoon users had to say.
Ok, so here’s the thing.. Anyone who knows me has heard my philosophy that bacon and/or butter make pretty much everything better! I mean really, how can a day start any better than waking to the smell of applewood smoked bacon frying happily on the stove? Having a bad day? Try a delicious BLT on soft, tangy sourdough bread with lots of mayo, fresh tomato, sharp cheddar, crisp lettuce and of course BACON!! Bacon cupcakes topped with maple buttercream? I’m IN!!
Let’s not forget about that lovely concoction that nature has provided to enrich our lives (and raise our cholesterol), BUTTER! What would a tall steaming stack of your favorite pancakes be without a pat of butter perched atop melting into a delicious little pool of happiness, just waiting for the addition of syrup? Sure, you can spread other things on your morning muffin or bagel but ever tried making Alfredo sauce without BUTTER? I think not.
Moving rite along, I recently came across a product that I’d never imagined, the very concept having eluded me for all of my 38 years.. I speak of course of Bacon Marmalade ! What’s this you say? Marmalade is a sweet sticky concoction made of fruit and spread on toast, bacon has no place here. You would be wrong.
Bacon Marmalade has five ingredients: bacon, sugar, water, vinegar, chile peppers (in the spicy version), and “secrets.” Sounds simple yet when you open the jar, the birds start singing, the air seems a little fresher and telemarketers everywhere hang-up their phones and allow you to enjoy dinner with the family. Seriously though, I tentatively stuck my spoon into the jar and scooped up a little taste. When the chewy, salty concoction hit my palate I knew I was onto something.
There is an unmistakable flavor of bacon coupled with something sweet that I couldn’t quite identify (although based on the ingredients I suspect sugar is the prime suspect), and then just the rite amount of heat and spice from the “chile’s.” My mind began to race as I put spoon to jar for more, should I make Bacon Marmalade crusted scallops? Maybe a little roast pork loin topped with my new-found friend? WAIT!!!!! I know….BACON MARMALADE BUTTER!!!! Of course I did it and let me tell you, it was spectacular.
The only thing keeping Bacon Marmalade from taking over the culinary world and it’s only Achilles heel is that it only comes in a little 4 ounce jar….SIGH…
If you want an imaginative way to liven up many of the same foods you’ve been making forever, log on to www.BaconMarmalade.com and sit forlornly by your door waiting for it to arrive.
I am a Pork Pilgrim!
I recently spent four days in the Mecca of BBQ and all things Pork that is the Memphis in May World Championsip BBQ Cooking Competition.. I arrived in the town that Blues and BBQ built on Thursday around midnight and thought it would be too late to feed my craving for ‘Que… I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After a short trip from the airport, my mom, my brother and I arrived on Beale street to find a MADHOUSE!! There were people everywhere havin a great time and The Blues City Cafe beckoned.
We ordered a rack of baby backs, hot links, smoked shrimp, fried Catfish and all the fixins’. The ribs were perfectly cooked and the sides were worthy of the Blues Music heard playing in the background. After stuffing ourselves we headed out on Beale to experience Memphis at its best.
Friday morning was my introduction to BBQ overload, over 250 teams from as far away as Denmark were set up and preparing to compete for prize money and bragging rights in 3 main pork categories: ribs, shoulder, and whole hog. (and several “other” categories)
My first stop was Pork Barrel BBQ where I met owners/cookers Brett and Heath, who made the trip from Washington, D.C. I watched as they trimmed and rubbed their brisket prior to smoking while eating the most flavorful smoked quail I’ve ever had. These guys had a calm air of professionalism about them despite all of the attention they were getting from the media (They won funding for their line of BBQ sauces and Dry rub on the TV Show ‘Shark Tank’).
- Desert Smoke BBQ & Cool Smoke BBQ @ MIM
My next stop was the Cool Smoke Team tent where I met Tuffy Stone and Jamie Geer, from the TLC series ‘BBQ Pit masters.’ These guys were friendly, organized and had the most succulent pulled pork I’ve found. Imagine taking the first bite, the flavor explodes onto your palate, the meat has just the rite amount of texture and the aroma makes you close your eyes and savor the moment. I can see why this team does so well in competition.
Wandering around the collection of team areas, I came across a big , white enclosed tent…as I approached, twin doors were thrown open and we were ushered into…wait for it…a FULLY AIR CONDITIONED TENT with refreshments and comfy couches!! (it turned out to be the TNT promotion tent for the upcoming series ‘Memphis Beat.’).
While sheltering from the heat and humidity eating cute little lemon squares and drinking cold sweet tea, I ran into My BBQ Tweeps from ManupTexasBBQ. (these two guys tweet and blog their way around the country eating ‘Que wherever it’s found).
The next few hours and the following days were kind of a blur as I ate everything BBQ that came within reach from ribs to pulled pork to brisket. I MUST mention a side trip to Gus’s Fried Chicken where I tasted the best chicken EVER….but that’s for another entry.
Check out the complete list of the winners here.
All in all, the Memphis in May BBQ festival is something that has to be experienced to be understood and in my opinion, EVERYONE should make the pilgrimage at least once.
Welcome to Desert Smoke BBQ’s all new Blog. Here you will find information, insight and opinions related to BBQ and all things food (along with my occasional rambling.) I am a Foodie at heart, a traveller and an entrepreneur. Desert Smoke BBQ is my business but food and travel are my PASSION! I invite you to come in, have a look around and tell me what you think. Opinions are always welcome even if they don’t agree with mine!