Is this thing on?

Yo, kids! DO NOT PANIC, please step away from the ledge, take deep breaths, and repeat after me. . . “Rogue Pepper is still blogging, Rogue Pepper is still blogging.” PHEW.

While we’d like to pretend all 4 of our readers have been concerned about our lack of posting, chances are the folks that follow along on instagram quickly realized we’ve been in travel mode lately. During the last five weeks we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy lovely food and bevvies in San Francisco, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, London, and Madrid. We have so very many things we’re excited to share, that it’s a bit overwhelming figuring out where to start.

While we’re getting our ducks in a row (or duck necks to be precise, because spoiler alert, we consumed those whilst HERE!) there are two quick things taking up space in the old noggin that I wanted to share:

UNO: While enjoying cocktails this week at Bitter and Twisted with a group of really fantastic people at the heart of Phoenix food culture, I got to talking with our favorite Boozy Brown Girl, about the local “food scene” and here’s what. . . it’s all about community. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of what makes Phoenix food and the people behind it successful, we’ve quickly learned that this is an inspiring, innovative, and genuine community of outstanding talent and endless potential. If we’re even a tiny part of that, or happily adjacent, it is an amazing thing.

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DOS: Eating when on vacation is probably one of my favorite things to do, ever. It is an indulgent splurge both in caloric and financial spend, that is one of the best parts about traveling (see: ice cream on the daily). Equally as awesome, I’ve newly decided, is getting back into a routine. It felt so great to stock the fridge with fresh food and get back to using the kitchen this week, because you know what’s not fun? That vacation bloat.

PS: Adopted Coffee is back in action and having an event this Saturday, August 29th from 7am – 12pm, check out their instagram HERE for the details, and if you see us there, please say hello!

Jerky Journey | A Prologue

Rogue Pepper is stoked to bring you the start of a new series by Chris, Stephanie’s brother and resident cured meat enjoyer.  Fellow carnivores, let’s show him some love, as he embarks on a very important journey near and dear to our hearts. . .

Once in a while in life, you get the opportunity to take on what seems like an insurmountable challenge.  In mythology and fiction, it usually takes the form of someone having to travel away from their home to battle a surreal ferocious beast to save their loved ones.  They embark on what is known as the Hero’s Journey, with many obstacles and lessons that have them coming out as a stronger, and often better, person than they were at the beginning of their journey.  This series is going to be an account of the Hero’s Journey that I am about to take on, but instead of battling the minotaur, I am going to have the unique challenge of cracking the mysterious longingly missed, but not forgotten, beef jerky recipe of my Grandfather.

chris the jerky noviceWithout a little bit of background information that sounds like it would be a pretty lame, not to mention tame, adventure.  So before we get to the Holy Grail I am chasing, I will give a little background on my culinary experience or lack thereof.  I in no way consider myself a cook.  I of course enjoy food a lot, and even though I do consider myself a sandwich connoisseur of sorts, I don’t really know much outside of the absolutely basics.  By basics I am truly referring to the ABSOLUTE basics.  For example, I know we usually need to cook meat before we eat it, and I know that it is prudent to add some sort of spice to it prior to cooking.  Beyond that, anything I do in the kitchen is an experimentation that has equal chances of ending in a passable meal or an inedible mess.  Needless to say, I will be doing a lot of research before my first attempt into this strange world of jerky, and there will definitely be a lot of trial and error.

gramps the jerky masterNow that my introduction is out of the way, let’s take a look at the real star of this show and the whole reason I am doing this, the delicious beef jerky.  My Grandfather, who passed away in 2012, was world famous for making his beef jerky.  This might sound like an exaggeration, and in part it is, but in our family, this was one of the best treats we could hope for.  The first thing we would do when we got to my Grandparents was go straight for the cabinet and look behind the giant industrial size roll of plastic wrap just hoping to find a Ziploc bag of this delectable culinary delight.  If we got lucky, you’d find a couple bags of the jerky, and could grab a few pieces for your pocket before going back outside to unload the bags from the car.  It was a very familiar sight to see our father carrying the laundry basket that, to this day he uses as a suitcase, while gnawing on a piece of jerky.  This jerky was loved so much by our family it was not uncommon and totally acceptable that my father and I would get a coffee can filled with the stuff as a Christmas present.

It goes without saying that this is not your everyday convenience store jerky.  This beef jerky is so thinly cut that it often had holes in a piece.  It was spiced and seasoned in a way that it was salty and savory, but with just enough sweetness, that it melded together in a symphony of flavors that all complimented each other without any one of them being overpowering.  More often than not, Gramps would garnish the jerky with whole peppercorns right on top which, in my opinion, only added to the euphoric tastes.

I have never had any other jerky, beef or otherwise, that has ever achieved the same heights.  This isn’t without searching.  I have tried many of the mega mart and convenience store jerkies but expecting those to compete is like eating at McDonalds and expecting a $40 hamburger.  I have tried family, friends, and other smaller vendor’s homemade smaller batch jerkies and though they can sometimes come close, none of them ever seem to get ever seem to get the flavoring and cut quite right.

My sisters and I always joke that I should get a dehydrator and try to figure out what we need to do to replicate our Grandfather’s beef jerky.  Partly for ourselves, well mostly for ourselves, but also for the future generations.  I can’t imagine a world in which my nephew never knows the tastes of this perfect jerky.  So to my delight, I got a dehydrator from them for my recent birthday, and I am finally ready to take on the challenge so that the recipe isn’t lost forever.  I’m hoping that with some research and hard work, I can figure out this riddle of jerky alchemy in such a way that my Grandfather would be proud to say that this isn’t his batch of jerky but his Grandson’s.

Wish me luck!

Kitchen Jackpots 02

Once again we’re dolling out high-fives for the little triumphs that go down in the kitchen, so let’s celebrate another round of kitchen jackpots:

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ONE: an organized fridge or pantry

Who has two thumbs and slight OCD tendencies? THIS GAL.  I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I put a little too much thought and effort into having things just right, which usually ends up with Ryan getting unfairly yelled at for not following my system.  I solemnly swear there’s a method to the madness that is fridge and pantry organization.  When everything thing has its place, you can find what you need easily, and proximity / frequency of use are considered it makes your entire kitchen and cooking experience that much better.  Please tell me I’m not the only kook that feels this way!

TWO: sticking to a plan

We grocery shop every weekend religiously, it’s oddly one of our favorite errands.  Sometimes we hit the market without much forethought, but those are not generally our most successful excursions.  We end up buying what we already have, don’t need, or don’t use. . . and this always results in spending too much money.  What serves us much better is trekking to the store, list at the ready, backed up by a solid meal plan.  Our list tends to start with weekly staples (i.e. bananas, eggs, mushrooms, sweet potatoes) and get rounded out by whatever we need for specific meals that week.  We’re most successful when the meal plan is a solid balance of weeknight favorites we make often (like chili, breakfast for dinner, steak + veg, zoodles) and trying out a new recipe or two.  Leaving options open for a Chipotle or Whole Foods hot bar night are also factored in.

THREE: zero food waste

Going hand in hand with a good plan, is the fantastic feeling when we aren’t wasting food.  This goes for leftovers that become lunches to take to work, produce that’s used before it starts growing funky bits, and never having to smell something before we’re willing to eat it.  Not only does this mean we’re saving money instead of throwing it quite literally in the garbage, but we’re also eating food when it’s at it’s best – fresh, ripe, and delicious.

FOUR: perfectly cooked protein

Before we cooked as often as we do now, I always followed the “cut it down the middle to check” method of seeing whether or not my meat was done. Presenting a chicken breast cut in half just doesn’t have the same appeal as an intact bird fully cooked and full of confidence. While I don’t always get it right, when I manage to time things perfectly to have a just right chop or juicy pink steak, a pat on the back is sure to follow.  Bonus points if you get it right when you’re playing host to others.

As they say, you can’t win if you don’t play. . . so we’re off to the kitchen with fingers crossed for more jackpots!

Denver | LoDo Low Down

In mid-June I was invited to speak at a digital marketing event in Denver.  This gave me the opportunity to combine a few of my favorite pasttimes:

English: Front exterior of Union Station in do...

  • Exploring a new city
  • Advancing my career
  • Getting the heck out of Phoenix in the Summer

As this was my first trip to Denver, and I didn’t have any friends or colleagues in the area, my approach to exploring the city was entirely unorganized.  What ended up happening was a 36-hour trip that resembled a less-debauched version of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover.

Since the hotel I was booked in was just down the block form the conference venue, there was no need to rent a car.  This meant that my travels were restricted to walking distance, mostly around the Union Station and LoDo* areas.  Here are some of the highlights.

*Lower Downtown

Ink Coffee on Cadence

After a 5am flight and a hour long coach ride from DIA to Union Station, I headed out on foot to see what I could find on the mile or so stroll to my hotel.  While much of the Union Station neighborhood is clearly in a rampant state of growth and on-going construction projects, I was able to find a path down Cadence that led me to Ink Coffee.

Inside, Ink Coffee looked like the kind of place you’d see in the brochure for a new residential development.  Very modern, slightly upscale but not off-putting for a potential neighborhood place. If I wasn’t looking forward to dropping my carry-on at the hotel, I could easily see myself sitting here for a while and reading through some kind of slightly-serious book while taking notes in a crisp new Moleskine.

As for the beverage service, I saw good reviews about their White Chai, so I got the Ginger Spice White Chai to take on my walk-about.  Not knowing how long it would be until I got breakfast, I didn’t want anything too serious, and this frothy, smooth drink had just enough tang to keep things interesting as I headed out.

Caution: The Earl @ Lucky Pie

Caution the Earl beer at Lucky Pie LoDo DenverCaution: The Earl paired with Duck Confit Poutine

That afternoon, I sent out a tweet about meeting up for beers or tea before my presentation, and got a great tip from some locals about an earl grey craft beer that might be found somewhere around town.  Taphunter to the rescue, I was lucky to discover that Caution: The Earl was on tap at nearby pizza “bar” Lucky Pie.

Caution: The Earl was thoroughly an experience worth searching out.  Described as an “English Mild” in the menu, this drink smells exactly like an expertly brewed cup of Earl Grey as you lift it to your mouth.  The best way I can describe the mouth feel is something like a Boddington’s pub ale, but less malty and more crisp.

If I was a more experienced craft beer drinker, I could probably talk about how the bergamot in the earl grey interacts with the brewing process and provides lift without distinctly floral notes, but really I’m just guessing.  Bottom line, if this is on sale somewhere near you, go out and try it.  You might be drinking your regrets, but Caution: The Earl won’t be one of them.

Euclid Hall Sausage

Bourdin Noir Sausage at Euclid Hall LoDo DenverHouse-Made Bourdin Noir Sausage with Kennebec Fries and Crazy Mountain Amber Ale

At most marketing conferences, the organizers provide a box lunch and everyone sits around massive tables, either making awkward small talk, or sitting far too close together and never once speaking.  Looking to avoid this conundrum, I headed out and made my way to Euclid Hall, just off campus from University of Colorado Denver. The lure here was a recommendation about house-made sausages that were can’t-miss (plus the ability to take off my lanyard and get some fresh mountain air).

As advertised, the sausage at Euclid Hall did not disappoint.  On any other day, I might have gone for two or three of their house-made sausages on offer, or the pad thai pig ears, duck confit poutine and brat burger.   As it was, I had a presentation yet to give, so I opted to just go for the Boudin Noir, mainly because the menu said “avec curry e aubergine” and I was intrigued.

The sausage comes with a tour of various mustards, ranging from sweet to spicy to coarse.  In the end, I ran out of sausage before I could firmly decide which mustard paired best with the Bourdin Noir, so a return trip is probably needed for research purposes.

Pigtrain Coffee Shop & ACME Burger & Brats

Pigtrain Coffee ACME Burgers Denver Union StationThe delicious wing of Union Station: ACME Burgers and Pigtrain Coffee

Even though the coach depot is underground and not inside Union Station, this 100 year-old building is not to be missed.  The station itself brought back memories of some of my favorite train stations in Europe, and I was sort of blown away that such a great, curated place existed and most of the Denver locals I talked to seemed to dismiss it’s appeal.

Just inside the front doors, Pigtrain Coffee has a stunning 270-degree coffee bar set-up.  While the staff seemed a little disorganized about their pour-over program, the product I ultimately received was well above commuter quality, and helped improve the hour long wait I had after I missed the first coach back to DIA.

Equally fulfilling was the classic-style burger I got from ACME Burger & Brats.  Similar to some of my favorite Phoenix burgers, ACME’s offering was low on frills, high on quality ingredients and well-seasoned.

Between the ambiance of the train station, the awesome burger and unexpectedly cool coffee bar, I would highly recommend checking out Denver Union Station if you’re in town.  Or if you live there.  Or if you just have several hours to kill between flights in Denver.

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Also in LoDo, I enjoyed my time at Backstage Coffee, Sam’s No 3, and Illegal Pete’s.  For more on those spots, check out our Instagram.  I’m sure I barely scratched the surface, and with all the construction going on, this neighborhood is going to be a great destination for future trips away from the desert.

 

Portland | Coffee + Tea

I feel compelled to start this topic off with a disclaimer of sorts:  we are big fans of coffee and tea, but are beginners at best, and we’d never describe ourselves as coffee people in any official capacity.  I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t even brew at home, though we do steep our little hearts out.  That said, we fully appreciate a great shop and tasty cuppa, so we tried to do the Portland coffee + tea scene justice during our February visit.

Stumptown

Stumptown

She said: A trip to the ACE hotel photo booth has quickly become a tradition for us when we visit Portland.  As luck would have it, the lobby of the hotel is only a door away from a small Stumptown location.  We’ve always enjoyed friendly service and a consistently solid latte when visiting this shop.  I don’t think you’re granted entry back into Portland if you’re in the city and don’t get a caffeine fix from Stumptown, and that’s a-okay with me.

He said: Compared to the dark, moody, wood-lined interior of the ACE hotel, this Stumptown lobby location is bright, crisp and a welcoming sight as you turn the corner. I can’t say that I specifically remember much about the latte from Stumptown, other than to say it did the job of warming me up against the late February drizzle.

Heart

Heart

She said: With some hometown ties to Heart via Crepe Bar, we definitely made sure this was on our list.  We visited the Eastside location on a Saturday with the intention of sticking around for a while, laptops in tow. We quickly discovered that Heart doesn’t provide wifi on the weekends, in an effort to get folks to unplug.  Had we know that in advance, I wouldn’t have been disappointed, but since we’d wanted to tuck in for a bit, that part was a bummer.  #FirstWorldProblems aside, the coffee was good, I really liked the space, and I wish I would have bought one of the glass and cork keep cups while we were there.

He said: For reasons described above, we didn’t stick around at Heart very long.  I ended up getting a latte because their signage wasn’t very clear about the availability of pour-overs, and as total coffee novice, I wasn’t confident enough to ask for something that wasn’t listed on the menu.  The space looks neat, but appears way bigger in the videos I’d seen on YouTube.  Compared to most local Phoenix places, there’s actually a below average amount of seating, though that should be expected with the massive roasting rig in center of the room. I’d bet that had we been there on a weekday, with the roasting in progress, we’d have a totally different opinion of the place.

townshends

Townshend’s Tea

She said: We stumbled upon Townshend’s on accident while walking around the SE Division Street area, and it was love at first site.  With over 100 loose leaf tea options (and boba, and kombucha, and other lovely offerings that I’m surely forgetting!) it was overwhelming in the best possible way.  I settled on a hot herbal tea (#76 Superberry) that was insanely good, naturally sweet, and a gorgeous deep red color.  I bought a few ounces to bring home, and it’s fantastic as and iced tea too.  Townshend’s is like tea heaven, I’d highly recommend paying them a visit.

He said: Every complaint I’ve had about Third-Wave Coffee shops not taking teas seriously are probably based on how good my experiences at Townshend’s and Good Coffee were. Walk into Townshend’s and you’re confronted with a massive wall of teas in numbered canisters.  Probably the best way to let you make a selection at your own pace, we spent around 20 minutes just checking out various teas on offer, before making our first selections. While the interior is definitely on the comfortable/shabby side, their loose leaf teas are incredibly on point.

water avenue

Water Avenue

She said:  Water Avenue was recommended to us by a few folks, and at the time we were mapping stuff out, it somehow didn’t make the official list.  Luckily we ran right into it before grabbing lunch on our last day in Portland.  I enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee and remember having a killer cookie alongside. This is a spot I’d definitely want to check out again when we had a bit more time to stay and enjoy

He said: Killing a few hours on our last day in Portland, we got to Water Ave after rambling about a very odd bazaar-style shop and before making our way to Olympic Provisions for lunch.  As this was the third coffee I’d had that morning, it wasn’t as notable as other drinks, largely due to my palate getting fatigued..

Goodcoffeepdx 1

Goodcoffeepdx 2

Good Coffee

She said:  Saving the best for last. . . I’m grateful that Ryan found Good Coffee for us, as it was hands down my favorite spot from the trip!  We visited each of their locations multiple times (essentially going back every day) and each time we were met with killer service, friendly staff that knew their stuff, and some great chats.  Both spaces are beautiful and comfortable, whether just popping in, or staying to hang a while like we did.  We loved every drink we ordered – oscillating between the equally fantastic coffee and tea.  If you haven’t heard of Good Coffee PDX before, it won’t stay that way for long, put it at the top of your list next time you’re in town as their shops are not to be missed!

He said:  True Story, I found Good Coffee on Instagram months ago when it was suggested by the algorithm based on other accounts we follow.  Of course, from their Instagram all I knew was that they had quality presentation and a crisp, bright decor, similar to the Stumptown location in the ACE lobby downtown. What I did not expect was for both Good Coffee locations to be true neighborhood coffee shops, taking up a small-ish footprint on the corner of a larger residential building.  I also had no clue that they would have such a quality tea program.  This was the first time I saw the Kinto One-Touch teapot in action, and now I can’t understand why it’s not the universal solution for loose leaf teas.

Adopted Coffee | Community Worth Waking Up For

adopted coffee sign

One of the great joys of our lifestyle is sharing and creating food memories with our friends. While we may be hipster-adjacent in many regards, when we find a great new place to eat or an amazing coffee experience, it becomes a topic of discussion and recommendation among our friends and family for weeks to come.

Since I consider all of you to be our close, personal friends, I’ve got a place I need to tell you about before you miss out on some great coffee over the last few Spring days remaining.

You’ve got to check out Adopted Coffee in Midtown.

Normally found behind the bar at Royal Coffee, Jake and his family have created an amazingly welcoming place to kick off your Saturday mornings this Spring.  Opening their home to the public, typically from 7 – Noon, you can immediately feel the warmth and sense of belonging that is missing in so many coffee spots.

With a rotating selection of specialty roasters, regular features from Rise Biscuits and ClariTea, and all in support of a terrific cause, we’ve been enjoying a great dose of hospitality and zen for the last several weeks.

Last weekend we cruised around on our bikes, making the trip from our place to Adopted Coffee, then on to the Public Market and finally stopping at Welcome Diner. I always love riding through the Roosevelt and Willo neighborhoods, so having a great place to caffeinate/refuel mid-way is terrific.

Pro-Tip: Check out the iced teas, too. It’ll make you swear off Lipton forever.

We all know the hot days are coming.  Sleeping in is great, but don’t let the last few amazing mornings slip away from you.

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For quality shots of the coffee action, check out Adopted Coffee on instagram, or this great one from @BryanSchiele that intimidated me enough that I didn’t even try shooting the coffee.

Food Flashbacks

Rogue Pepper wishes cheese was a vegetable

“Hey Mom, can I stay at Nicole’s house for dinner?”

A fairly frequent phone call request I made during elementary school. From a landline. On a phone with a cord.

It was goulash night. I loved when Nicole’s mom made goulash for dinner, and always hoped I’d get invited to stay when I saw the ingredients lining her kitchen counter.  If the electric skillet was pulled out of the cabinet I took it as a good sign goulash was coming.  The meal wasn’t groundbreaking, in fact it probably shouldn’t have been called goulash by definition, but boy did I love it.

large pasta shells + ground beef + store bought ragu brand sauce “flavored with meat”

. . . .

“I’ll pay you $10.”

A bribe to get my mother to do the dishes when our turn for the chore aligned with spaghetti night.

All of us hated washing dishes after spaghetti night, and our mom is an especially messy cook.  The pans were too big, and too heavy, and covered in homemade sauce that simmered a little too long, requiring a little too much effort to scrub clean. There was the pasta pan, the sauce pan, the large crystal bowl that we served from, the rusted cookie tray used for bread, and all of the damn plates.  We didn’t have a dishwasher until I was in 9th grade, making spaghetti night particularly grueling to clean up after.

spaghetti + homemade tomato sauce + meatballs from scratch + johnsonville’s italian sausage + garlic bread, slightly burnt + grated cheddar cheese and kraft parmesan sprinkled to taste + iceberg salad with ranch, that no one ever ate

. . . .

“What do you mean you’ve never had it?”

There are certain food combinations that you think are totally normal until you mention them to someone-not-your-family, and they are completely grossed out. We’ve all been there, right?

When school was out for the summer, if we weren’t dining on gourmet blue box cuisine it was microwaved cheese sandwiches.

white bread + cheddar cheese, melted + dunked in red kool-aid (fruit punch was my red of choice)

On the weekends after our Dad went grocery shopping (or if you were lucky enough to go with him, in the truck on the way home from the store).

deli turkey meat, rolled + fritos dipped in cottage cheese

Side-dish of choice, also known as the the least authentic preparation of refried beans in the history of ever.

canned rosarita refried frijoles + ¾ stick of butter + no so healthy splash of milk + even less healthy ratio of shredded cheddar cheese, all combined until warm and melty throughout

. . . .

While it’s not hard to pinpoint unhealthy habits when strolling down food-memory lane, I place no blame.  Not because the generations that raised us shouldn’t have known better (in that, they should have), but because it was all freaking delicious at the time.

I have an affinity for these memories because in some way they’ve shaped who I am, what I enjoy, and even what I’ve changed about how I might choose to eat now.  In other words, thanks for all the cheese, mom and dad.

Kitchen Jackpots 01

Every once in a while all the stars align, the cooking Gods give you a fist bump, and you really hit the jackpot in the kitchen.  We have to take solace in these seemingly small victories, as they help make up for the less than stellar incidents that our kitchen witnesses at times (read: ghee is not supposed to be brown, Ryan).  Here are just a few wins in our book:

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ONE: a perfectly ripe avocado

This is my number 1 jackpot item for a reason – the house odds aren’t in our favor at kitchen/casino gomez-glass.  We buy avocados on the regular, and I’d say about 75% of them succumb to the “scrape off the dark bits” salvage attempts before being thrown away.

TWO: having all the ingredients for a brand new recipe

Nothing stops my motivation to try a new recipe out faster then realizing I don’t have all the stuff I need.  Especially when it’s a one-off ingredient that we don’t normally cook with.  Luckily, the pantry and spice cabinet have been carefully curated over the past few years, so I’ve recently found we have that exact random thing we’re looking for. . . Chinese 5-spice, coconut flour, anchovy paste, SCORE!

THREE: your favorite knife/bowl/pan clean and ready for use

We run a little fast and loose with the dishes policy in our kitchen.  While things are generally tidy, we often find dinner prep remnants waiting for us to clean the next morning.  I personally can’t start cooking a new meal in a messy kitchen, so when I walk in to find all the things I need, clean and ready to go, it’s a victory.

FOUR: successful scavenge

Both of us like to pretend we know what we’re doing in the kitchen.  Sometimes that works out great, and other times we end up with asparagus too sour to eat, thanks to a heavy handed lemon squeezer (guilty). The times that we wing it in an effort to use up whatever is in the fridge, and it actually works out, is a huge success.  Like this, this, or this.

Fingers crossed and good luck charms abound for you to hit your own kitchen jackpots, friends.

Eating Well, Two Ways

WCD

I posted a picture of a donut on instagram a while back and happened to notice that we lost 3 followers.  This could be coincidence, and it’s highly likely I’m over analyzing the whole sitch, but it got me thinking about finding our balance. . .

When we were doing a round of Whole30 in January, we posted photos regularly using some of my favorite Whole30 and healthy eating hastags, during which we gained quite a few new followers. Since then, I’ve found I am overly conscious of when we post anything not of the “Whole30 / Paleo” genre for fear of ostracizing ourselves from the food priorities or habits of our new found friends. Which then got me thinking about overall lifestyle choices and realistic goals. . .

Here’s the thing, kids. . . I’m never going to never have pizza, ya know?  Cheese 4 life.

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All we can do is keep it real, and that means nothing more than a truthful combination of veggies + indulgences taking up space in our camera rolls.  I’ve found that in order to set ourselves up to succeed, it’s all about finding a realistic balance of eating well for health and eating well for choice. . .

Eating Well [HEALTH]

carrots

In June of 2013, we endured a self-imposed, radical overhaul when it came to our relationship with food.  The pantry and fridge were purged of junk and we’ve never looked back.  We are committed to eating real, whole, fresh foods.  We are full on label-reading, sugar-avoiding, farmers-market-frequenting, local-seasonal-organic-sustainable-clean-eaters.  It’s not a trend to us, it’s a lifestyle choice.  Annoying and dramatic language here is intentional, SOAP BOX – I’M ON IT.

As Ryan has mentioned, the nitty gritty foundation that we’re aiming for is really driven by our own goals of becoming healthier*. Figuring out what works for us, long-term, to make better choices and feel good about how we’re fueling our bodies. It just so happens the habits which have been most successful for us are fairly in line with all things paleo.  Usually, I’m happy to identify with this label, and in the exact same breath, I’ll also identify with being human and strategically choosing to make very much NOT paleo choices sometimes.

Eating Well [CHOICE]

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If drastic changes to our diets have taught us nothing else, what eating well is really all about is CHOICE.  We’ve spent a big chunk of time and effort (and money!) to get where we are now.  We’ve read, and watched, and googled, and tried, and cooked, and bought, and learned, and researched, and ate. What we aren’t going to do, is abandon all of that to choose a big mac.  The results of not paying attention to what’s in your food and where it comes from, isn’t a mystery – we were living with the 30+ year consequences first hand (ahem, also see: obesity rates in the US).

So when we intentionally decide to have burgers, you can bet your ass they’re going to be some of the best damn burgers in all the land, because that is what makes it really worth it to us. Food is an experience, and community (#phxfoodculture), and it goes hand in hand with travel, friends, family traditions, meeting new people, and creating memories.  We indulge when it’s justified to us, as the exceptions, not the rules to eating well.

 

*To clarify, healthy for us is not just about losing weight, though we do have those goals too. Our intent is to really live a healthier life overall.  That means our doctors give us the high-five come annual check-up time, we sleep well, move often, have strong immune systems, and take better care of our bodies.  When you’re in your 30’s this shiz really begins to hit home, and we are big believers that food is where it all starts.

Phoenix Burgers | Welcome Diner PB&B Burger

Welcome Diner PB&B Burger

Note: I scheduled today’s post for later than usual, because Welcome Diner doesn’t open until 5pm, and showing you a great local burger that you couldn’t buy for several hours seemed like a uniquely awful form of torture.

Admittedly, I was hesitant to try this sandwich for over a year.  We lived in The Roosevelt, and yet I resisted making the trip a few blocks over to try what had been lauded as one of the best burgers in town.  After all, there is no way that peanut butter, chunky peanut butter, belongs on a savory cheeseburger, right?

Wrong.  Boy was I wrong.

Read on to hear more about how this unassuming, neighborhood spot continues to produce flavor-forward dishes that will make you wish they were open right now.

The Meat

As the name indicates, Welcome Diner is probably as close to a classic, Streamline-era diner as one might find today.  Last time we were there, the staff described it as “a place to chill-out really hard”. Work that one over in your head for a bit.

Each time I’ve had the PB&B, the Niman Ranch beef patty is cooked to a perfect Medium. Well-seasoned and well-seared, it’s never overcooked and still manages to provide enough heat for the peanut butter proofing process I’ll describe below.

Maybe the better way to say it is that, while on the PB&B the eater is clearly focused on the unique toppings, the meat itself is good enough that Stephanie ordered their “classic” burger above any of their amazing chicken and biscuit offerings.  If you’ll turn down fried chicken and honey biscuits for an unadorned burger, you know that meat is top-notch.

The Bun

If anything in this sandwich can be called “standard fare”, it’s the bun.  Given the juiciness of the burger and toppings, this plain, toasted bun does a remarkable job keeping my shirt and hands presentable. Not too much “great, my mouth is full of bread” action, just enough to encase the savory, salty burger and convince you that you probably don’t need to put it down…ever.

The Toppings

[Warning: Topless Burger Pic below]

With a name like “PB&B Burger”, you know that the toppings is where this burger really stands out.  Crisp, thick bacon from The Meat Shop (hooray for ethically raised pork!) brings a bit of texture to the saucy/gooey proceedings.  Cheddar cheese; almost never go wrong there.

And then of course, comes the guest of honor: crunchy peanut butter. You’d think* that peanut butter would make each bite unbearably thick, sticking to the roof of your mouth and slowing down the noms.  The truth, however, is that the peanut butter melts over the cheeseburger becoming the perfect, slightly sweet/mostly umami quasi-aioli you could imagine.  Rather than slowing your chompers down, it turns into a beautiful sauce that keeps you from wanting to set the burger down between bites.

Manners be damned, the PB&B Burger is a lesson in fun, flavor, and hard-core chilling-out.

Woohoo! Spring Break 2015!

* Unless you’re a scientist or someone else familiar with the characteristics of viscous plasmas under heat.