03/30/14

Doughgasm’s Foodie Adventures in Tempe,Arizona

My professional life took me to Tempe, Arizona this week.  I’ve been there several times for this same event and have always found it it rich for potential foodie adventures.

Last year, the combination of a cheerful exterior and the concept of artisan paletas put Paletas Betty at the top of my ‘must try’ list. Having missed out at the chance then, I made a point of trying Paletas Betty this time around.

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paletas betty
The menu at Paletas Betty rotates with the seasons and they put a great deal of focus on their policy of using fresh fruit and freshly ground spices in their products. On my visit,the available recipes included lemon drop, cucumber and mint and rice pudding.

In the end, I went for a Mexican hot chocolate paleta. It felt appropriate. From the first bite, it was obvious that they had used fresh cinnamon. Which, lead to the creation of a richness in the flavor despite the overall lightness of the paleta.

I will say though that eating it before the heat of the Tempe sun reduced it to a melted mess was a challenge and resulted in an over abundance of napkin usage.

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El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria helped me get my taco fix during this year’s visit to Tempe. Cliche, it may be but a trip to the Southwest without indulging in at least one taco would have felt incomplete.

If you ever need to remember that being a foodie makes you different than the average eater, go to a place like El Hefe with a picky eater as your companion.  When I saw the Ele Hefle Super Macho Taqueria  menu, I was excited to have the chance to try new flavor combinations. My friend, however, looked at this vast menu and the only thing he could see himself eating was the hot dog.

Now, okay it is kobe beef hot dog wrapped in mesquite bacon and topped with chipolte mayo, charro beans and tomatillo-avacado salsa. That does sound like a particularly good hot dog. However, he doesn’t eat pork. So, he asked to have the bacon taken off. Then, he doesn’t like mayo so that was gone too. It turned out that not knowing what a charro bean was made it too risky and so he asked to have that omitted too.

When the hot dog arrived with only the salsa remaining, it was too green and he scraped it off and asked them to bring ketchup. I am sure the person who developed the menu item was cringing somewhere. My friend did say it was a good hot dog. I’m not sure if it was worth the $8 once you take everything off of it but at least he was happy.

Not to be discouraged from having my own foodie adventure, I ordered a combination of three tacos with black beans on the side.  I was able to select three varieties of tacos from their menu. I decided to go for an air, land and sea combination.

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The first of the tacos in that trio was the  Braised Beef Cheek taco with pickled red onion,baja slaw and smoked gaujillo salsa.

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Second up was the Negro Modelo Battered Cod taco with beer battered cod,pickled cabbage,pico de gallo and orange aioli.

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The final taco was the Duck Carnitas taco with tomatillo-avacado salsa, cherry-pecan mole and pickled Fresno chili. All three of the tacos were good but it the duck carnitas was without a doubt the best. The duck itself was cooked to a point of succulence and then that cherry-pecan mole was so yummy that,had it been available, I would have been tempted to buy a jar.

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Three tacos and the beans made for a perfectly sized meal that left me satisfied without being too heavy for the scorching Tempe heat.

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I suppose, I shouldn’t forget about that giant bloody Mary that I ordered.  Especially since it was made with bacon-infused vodka.

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Cupcakes are sort of my thing. So, when I saw that a Gigi’s Cupcakes had been added to the street since last year, I was unable to resist.

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With so many varieties of cupcakes, narrowing it down to just two (one is never enough) was difficult. Lately,I have been in to trying which ever flavor a cupcake place offers that is outside the normal chocolate or red velvet box. That in mind, I ended up taking the Lemon Daisy and Banana Cream cupcakes back to my room.

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The Lemon Daisy cupcake was super cute. The lemon cream cheese frosting was beautifully arranged to look like flower petals. Generally, I am not a fan of cream cheese frosting. It is simply overused these days and often on flavors of cupcakes that aren’t particularly complimented by the tangy nature of a cream cheese frosting.  In this case though, the lemon in the frosting balanced that out so that I didn’t mind it at all.

The cake itself, which they say is baked with Sprite, was tasty but it does have to be said that it was a particularly dense cupcake. I think I would have preferred some sort of spongecake base to the cupcake but, despite that, it was still good.

lemon daisy cupcake

Gigi’s Cupcakes did, however, hit a home run with the Banana Cream Pie cupcake. I have a banana just about every morning with my breakfast. Yet, I rarely will buy anything with a banana flavoring because it always taste chemically to me.

I am glad I gave the banana cream pie cupcake a try though because it was incredibly tasty. For starters, it was a banana butter cream frosting rather than cream cheese which was a great choice because it created a lightness to the frosting that mimicked a cream pie. Great texture was given to the frosting by the crumbled Nilla Wafers sprinkled on top.

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When I first bit into the cake itself, I thought it was just a pleasant enough yellow cake. A couple bites later, I discovered the vanilla pudding center of the cupcake. Great stuff!