Sweet Tomatoes - Phoenix, Arizona

Shopping Mall attractions are not generally on my 'must do' list when on vacation (sorry that I sound like a bit of a snob sometimes) but the kids wanted to take Juelle to Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium, both of which happen to be in Arizona Mills Shopping Centre. Marie and I gave Legoland a hard pass but agreed to go see the fishies.
And you know, it is not a bad little exhibit (not so little really).  They are not holding any Orcas or Belugas captive which is a good thing, and we enjoyed looking at a everything from Jellyfish and Pipefish all the way up to some Rays and Sharks. Not bad!
I started to feel hungry at the lobster tank....In a serious attempt to get the kids to eat their veges, we decided to try Sweet Tomatoes in Ahwatukee. I kind of miss the days when salad bars were  a little more of a common phenomena. I wonder though why they disappeared? I would gladly eat at one occasionally. Sweet Tomatoes starts with a long salad bar with lots of choices.
You can build something healthy if you want and then you can make it considerably less healthy with a good layer of Blue Cheese dressing and Blue Cheese crumbles, croutons, black olives and whatever else!
Healthy so far but I have not arrived at the dressings yet!
There is also a soup bar with...well...soup but also a couple of types of chili (Black Bean and Quinoa for one) a pasta bar, and an assortment of baked items including pizza.
Baked Goods
And finally there are a few desserts including soft ice cream. I put Granola on my twist ice cream so it would qualify as healthy!
Twist Soft Ice Cream with Granola
This place is clean and well maintained. We sort of showed up after lunch and before dinner so it was not terribly busy but they seem to be very much on top of things. At  $10 per adult for lunch and not much more for dinner, it is a pretty good deal. Booths and tables are comfortable and can accommodate up to 8 people easily. Let your inner healthy eater out once in a while. 
Sweet Tomatoes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In 'n Out Burger - Phoenix , Arizona

In the past, I have self righteously announced that I do not do chains and especially not fast food chains, usually just before I post a review for a fast food chain! Most people would acknowledge that In n Out Burger is something a little bit different. Even Anthony Bourdain likes the place! As someone else correctly pointed out, there are no breakfast burritos or salads or the nuggets of anything here. These folks do burgers and fries and shakes and nothing else. And they do them well. So still on day two of our Phoenix vacation. The kids are back from the Grand Canyon  (we did the same trip as an overnight a couple of years ago) and were hungry. We decided it would be  good time to make our pilgrimage to In n Out.
The six of us ordered and munched happily on the aforementioned burgers, fries, shakes and a couple of soft drinks. I, clever fellow that I am, knew about the secret menu! When placing my order, I glanced around to make sure no one was eavesdropping and conspiratorially leaned over to ask for peppers on my cheeseburger and a Neapolitan shake! The server was nonplussed because obviously the secret menu is not so secret and so chill out, dude.
This is a basic and very good burger. There are fancier, bigger more amazing cheese burgers in the world but not for $2.85. Decent toasted bun, fresh (not frozen) ground chuck that is well cooked on the flat top and tastes beefy, American cheese, onion, tomato, lettuce, and their sauce.
As for the fries, here they go above and beyond. The fries arrive at the restaurant door in the form of potatoes. Is that even a thing? They peel, cut and fry on site and don't over salt them.
Shakes are rich and require some lung power to draw up the straw, or there are soft drinks, lemonade, iced tea or even coffee if you prefer. The restaurant itself is bright and cheery yet comfortable and the food arrives quickly enough even though it is not waiting under a heat lamp.
According to the web site, In n Out does not own a freezer, microwave or heat lamp! What does that tell you? Everything is fresh and has to be pretty well organized too. Fortunately or unfortunately (if you are from Canada, as we are), In n Out has remained small and that doubtless has contributed to their maintaining this kind of quality! 
In-N-Out Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Porkopolis - Phoenix, Arizona

Day Two - Marie and I abandoned the young'uns to their own devices (they drove all the way to the Grand Canyon and back!), and went on our own adventure! First stop was Casa Grande (Sivan Vah'Ki to the descendants of the desert people who built it probably around 1350 C.E.) to ponder its mysterious reason for existence and its spirituality. We spent some time obsessively trying to take a
picture of a resident hummingbird with our phones (no easy task, I assure you).
From there, we made our way to Porkopolis in Chandler. The name kind of sings to you, doesn't it? I had seen Porkopolis on Ginormous Foods, so was prepared to set the dream of a healthy diet off for another day! Fully aware that we were ordering too much food but prepared for the burden of 
Deep Fried Pickles
taking some home, we ordered Deep Fried Pickles and Brisket Burnt Ends as appetizers. These pickles were amazing! Crispy and hot and the sour of the pickle was offset by the sweet of the Barbecue Sauce Aioli! And the Burnt Ends found a devoted friend in my partner. There were some extra fatty bits that
Brisket Burnt Ends

I was not so keen on but the overall briskety,sweet and smoky experience was moving!
Three Meats and One Side
At this point we had enough food to feed us both but...you know. We ordered the 3 Meat Platter that comes with one side and is a smoking deal at lunch time! We enjoyed pulled pork, brisket and ribs with Jalapeno Cole Slaw as a side. The pulled pork was my favorite and was so moist and smoky! All their meats are cooked 16 hours over mixed wood pellets! Brilliant! The ribs literally fell apart when we tried to pick them up and they were amazing with a deep and impressive smoke line! I found the brisket to be a little dry (as it often is) but Marie liked it the best because of the pure beef flavour. 
And adding a bit of sauce was perfectly acceptable. The slaw was a refreshing foil to all that meat. When it was time to pack up our vast pile of left overs, our server brought us extra barbecue sauce and aioli. 
Thanks so much you folks! Any chance of an outlet in Metro Vancouver?

Porkopolis Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Filibertos - Phoenix, Arizona

Greetings sports fans, from sunny Phoenix, Arizona! My partner and I, her kids and other assorted friends will be spending a week soaking up the sun and sights on a much deserved albeit rare vacation! Why Phoenix, you ask? Well it happens that my employers own a nice condo in the Ahwatukee Foothills and are good enough to let their employees make use of it from time to time. I intend to return home wrinkly from the hot tub but not too much browner as we don't do the tanning thing much anymore. And of course the eating does not stop just because we're out of town, though we have a philosophy for dining when away from Metro Vancouver. For example, we don't seek out  south, south east or east Asian food when in Arizona. Why? Well, we have the best in the world right at home! On my radar in this neighbourhood however is Mexican food, Barbecue and Soul food! Not to mention there is an In 'n Out Burger near by!
Already, on our trek from the airport to the condo, we stopped at Filibertos for a late lunch.
We don't really have anything quite like Filibertos in Metro Vancouver. It is a chain but in quality of Mexican food it is well above the Taco Bell/Time chains that we are used to (and avoid). It is homey Mexican food, maybe Americanized more than I realize and probably not genius by local standards (definitely not an expert) but personally, I am a fan.
With a fresh salsa bar! Not the greatest one I have seen but I can eat my weight in those pickled carrots and jalapenos and there are a couple of salsas.
I tend to forget that restaurants down here do not skimp on the chow. It would make sense to share with my partner more but hey, I love left overs for breakfast. Marie loves Chile  Relleno but when buried in sauce and cheese, the point of deep frying (namely crispiness) is lost. That sadly was the case here although it was still rich and tasty overall (sauce and melted cheese ordinarily seem like a great thing). Surrounded by vast quantities of rice, beans, salsa, sour cream and guacamole, it is filling for about $10. Neither of us were big fans of the guacamole. It seemed a little too blenderized and personally, I am partial to chunky. Is it frozen maybe?
Now the Fish Tacos were great! Tasty deep fried white fish that stayed crispy since it was not covered in anything that would make it soggy. Cabbage, Pico de Gallo and a little crema and decent corn tortillas. Excellent!
Marie's son seemed to enjoy his Beef Tacos. He was the only one to not order too much!
And hey, we're on vacation so we're having dessert! Very good crispy Churros. All together a pretty good way to start our Arizona vacation food adventure! The local reviews seem to want to beat up on this place and admittedly, it is a little threadbare and the staff is semi invisible but to these visitors from the land where Mexican food only recently landed, it is just fine.
Filiberto's Mexican Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Masala Indian Bistro - Langley

Masala Bistro is a lovely pleasant surprise. I've been eating  lot of Indian food lately (which I consider to be a very good thing) but usually making the trek at least to Scott Road (from our humble Aldergrove abode). So my brother is in town for the weekend from Calgary where it is evidently difficult to get good goat curry. Thus, that became our quest and we were obliged to travel no further than Langley.
Poppadoms and Mint Chutney

It was a little quiet at Masala Bistro for a Saturday at 7 so we were seated  by the window with no waiting. Located in the middle of Langley on Fraser Highway, the restaurant is a little warn (seats could use a rehab) but the folks are warm and friendly. Our server, who I think was probably also the manager / owner brought us some Poppadoms and a very nice Mint Chutney to get us started. 
Appetizer Sampler
We ordered their Appetizer Sampler which came with a Samosa, and assorted Pakora; fish, chicken, vegetable, and paneer. I think we can safely say that all the pakora came pretty well straight from the fryer as everything was hot and crisp. Its a little hard to pick a favourite but the fish was very good and has become my go to at north Indian restaurants. The sauce was tamarind based and very nice.
Goat Curry
I have whined a bit lately about Indian dishes (butter chicken in particular) looking like big bowls of sauce that you have to fish around in to find the protein. That was certainly not the case with our mains here. David ( little brother) ordered the Goat Curry and it was on the bone as it should be and very good. Strong warming curry is a wonderful thing and don't shy away from goat when it is available! It is a very tender meat (when cooked properly as it was here) and even qualifies as a little more environmentally friendly than say beef in terms of water and land required to raise it.
Kuku Paka
I fell for the word "Swahili" on the menu. Kuku Paka is an African dish of boneless chicken cooked in coconut with onion, ginger, garlic, Indian spices etc. And a little snowfall of coconut and coriander on top. Again from my picture you can see that it is chicken with sauce rather than sauce with chicken! It was excellent! The story is that the chef at Masala Bistro worked for a guy from South Africa, where he learned this recipe and it stuck! Good for all of us! 
Rice (obviously)
Naan (more obviously)
Rice and naan of course. While I whine about too much sauce, I would complain if there was not enough to soak up with rice and naan. I am going to have to try Basmati rice at home as I am always in awe when the grains are long and individual (not sticky) and so light! 
So this was great. I feel like we have found a  hidden gem and I've been driving past it for years. Don't make the same mistake as me!

Masala India Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shanghai Wonderful - Richmond

We came for the Xiao Long Boa and stayed for the stimulating conversation. My brother was in for the weekend from Calgary so we always go for dim sum. We brought our parents and some old friends and the conversation strayed as it always does to tax scandals, telecommunications and music . And yes, I still maintain that Celine Dion rocked in the pre Disney big ballad days! Shanghai Wonderful is in  the Best Western Abercorn in Richmond. It's a comfortable room and we sat at a table with a big lazy susan which is great as long as you spin it slowly.
Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and Sour Soup was a good way to start on this rainy ugly day.  It was thick with mushrooms and  noodles and just sour enough to qualify for the name. Very nice!
Soup Dumplings
The main event was next and we all agreed that the soup dumplings were very good! The skin was just thick enough to hold together and the soup was tasty. Inside the little pork nugget provided a nice finish to the experience. Later we had another round but the version with crab. I believe the crab is only in the actual soup with the same pork nugget. I felt obliged to photograph the crab soup dumplings as well but you really can't tell the difference!
Green Onion Pancake
We tried a few other items such as Green Onion Pancakes which were crisp on the outside but tasty and chewy inside.
Beef Roll

The Beef Roll was also enjoyable. Some cucumber added a pleasant crunch and there was just enough Hoisin inside to add a bit of sweetness. 
Chinese Doughnut
The Chinese Donut was less of a hit and the only thing that we didn't even finish. I assume this is a Shanghaiese version and were more doughy than what I am used to (usually a little closer to a Mexican churro. Am I wrong?)
Vegetable Chow Mein

We had a true vegetarian in our midst and so ordered a Vegetable Chow Mein. The vegetables themselves were nicely just cooked but overall the dish was a little bit meh. Still it was nice to see some green. 
Sticky Rice Shao Mai
We tried Sticky Rice Shao Mai. I have never had anything quite like this. The rice was rich with mushrooms and meaty flavour. These went quickly! 
Pan Fried Soup Dumplings
Finally to my delight, we ordered Shen Jiang Bao. I recently discovered the existence of these tasty variations on Xiao Long Bao from Dennis The Foodie (http://dennisthefoodie.com/). They are the pan fried slightly leavened dough version of a soup dumpling with the same soup and pork meatball inside! These were great although to be honest, since I have never had them before, I have no benchmark. The soup was very hot inside so care was needed! I am not even sure what they are called on the English menu as someone else ordered them and they just appeared as if by magic!
Sesame Balls in Rice Wine Soup
We don't order dessert very often but I am glad we did this time. We had Sesame Balls in Rice Wine Soup! The interior of these balls was a tasty sesame paste and they were floating in a light, not too sweet, citrusy syrup. The best part of any meal is the company and conversation but I think we all enjoyed the food as well. Service was very good and food came out of the kitchen in a timely manner. Everything was great! The dim sum menu is a little different at this Shanghaiese restaurant than what we usually have but that just means more to explore!

Shanghai Wonderful Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...