Bobby D’s BBQ at the English Kitchen Jerome Restaurant Review

English Kitchen
English Kitchen – Originally built using adobe blocks by Charley Hong to replace his Connor Hotel kitchen that went up in flames in 1899, was open until 2007. Until then, it was the longest-running restaurant in Arizona. Despite its name, they served Chinese food when Charley ran the place.

To coerce Queen Anne to join me on a photo outing, I have to bribe her with something precious—like food or ice cream. If I schedule everything carefully, I can get away with having to pay for only one meal while we’re on the road. I wanted to shoot in Jerome in the good afternoon light and the drive from our house is a little over a couple of hours, so my cheapest bet was to buy her lunch. When we travel we use the TripAdvisor rankings to see what the popular restaurants are at our destination. It eliminates some guesswork picking out a place to eat. We look at the best reviews and then try to find them when we get to town and for our Jerome trip, Bobby D’s BBQ was their top pick.

Bobby’s is in the English Kitchen Building directly across the street from the Liberty Theater. The old building has hosted various restaurants since Charley Hong built it in 1899, according to the story on the back of the menu. I enjoyed reading the part about the English Kitchen name because—being a Chinese restaurant—it never served traditional British fare. If unwitting diners ordered an English breakfast, they were more likely served a dish of chop suey.

The interior of the original building is simple with about dozen wooden tables and historic Jerome photos decorating the wall. There’s not much room inside and since it was a pleasant day, we opted for seats on the deck. Our friendly hostess quickly found a spot at one of the many picnic tables. We enjoyed a nice breeze in the shade of the orange canopies and gawked at the Verde Valley panorama while the aroma of the smokers seduced our appetites. Our pleasant waitress brought menus and took our drink orders before we finished looking around.

Bobby D’s is a BBQ joint and the staff proudly proclaims that they’ve won a Best in Arizona award. The first page of the menu is all BBQ, but we weren’t that hungry so instead, we split the Arizona Cheesesteak from the second page. It consisted of brisket, sautéed onions, pepper jack cheese and (Ortega) chilies stuffed into a hoagie. It sounded different. It came to the table dry along with four house-made sauces for us to sample.

I’m a guy that likes BBQ and I’ve cooked a mean rib a time or two. I like a lot of flavor. A good sauce should singe your nose hairs but leave a sweet taste. The sandwich was good, but it surprised me at how little smoke and rub seasoning was in the meat. While I’m picking nits here, the mild chilies they use are lost in such a bold sandwich as this—jalapeños would have been a better choice. Their BBQ is southern style so one of the sauces is mustard-based, but it was too reminiscent of honey-mustard dressing for me. A second blend they have is called Jalapeño Molasses and again the chilies were missing in the sweet syrup. That leaves their Little Miss Tango sauce as my pick among the three. Anne liked it too—so that alone shows that it wasn’t spicy enough.

Bobby D’s is a good place in Jerome for lunch or an early dinner. It’s fun to eat in and learn about the historic diner. Our service was very good, and the staff was attentive. The food was also very good even if I felt it was on the bland side. Is this the best restaurant in Jerome? The reviews say it is, but I haven’t tried the others. Is it the best BBQ in Arizona? I’ve had better, but BBQ is always a safe bet. Because Jerome isn’t an overnight destination, many of its restaurants close by 2:00 while Bobby’s is open until 6:00. If this were a Yelp or TripAdvisor review, I’d offer four out of five stars.

Until next time — jw

Eggs Benedict Done Right Nichols West Restaurant A Congress Brightspot

My favorite thing for breakfast is Eggs Benedict. It’s an indulgence that I refuse to give up even though I know that plate full of calories and cholesterol is trying to kill me. By no means am I a traditionalist. I like all the varietals. I’ve tried the Californian with turkey and avocado, the Florentine with spinach, a crab cake version, and one made with salmon. The most exotic and memorable Benedict I’ve ever had was when Jeff and I stopped in Santa Cruz on the homeward bound leg of our infamous San Francisco trip. I believe it was in the Walnut Avenue Café that I ordered Blackened Ahi Tuna Benedict. I don’t know why I’ve never been back. The peppery tuna and lemon creaminess of the sauce was one of the best things I have ever eaten.

I have a version that I make when I’m in the mood to struggle with egg poaching. I substitute a nice thick ham slice instead of the usual Canadian bacon and I replace the Hollandaise with Béarnaise because I enjoy the tarragon and vinegar sauce even more. I call my version Eggs Better-dict.

Eggs Benedict at Nichols West
Craft paper replaces white tablecloths at Nichols West and they make the best Eggs Benedict.

One of the best things about living in Congress is that we have a local restaurant that really doesn’t belong here. A couple blocks west of US 89 on State Route 71 is a small café named Nichols West. It would be in the heart of downtown if Congress had a downtown. The cream-colored building with its star jasmine-covered façade houses a bar and restaurant that seats—at best—fifty people. Simon ­­­Smith—a British transplant—is the proprietor of this American Restaurant and over the last decade, he has built up a large and very loyal clientage here by having a varied menu, serving fresh ingredients, and being open year round. That’s an important part of being able to keep good staff.

As expected from a diner like this, the prices—although reasonable—prevent us—as retieries—from having dinner there every night. However, they’re open for breakfast every morning at eight, and one of the best deals on the breakfast menu is the Eggs Benedict, starting at under $10.00. I say starting because they have a half-dozen versions including a Country Benedict (biscuits and gravy in place of the good stuff). The sauce is the key to making this meal great. Anyone can slap egg yolks and lemons together, but here it’s bright without being too lemony. I don’t recall having a better Hollandaise, and so I’ll put it up against the best in Arizona.

Nichols West In Congress Arizona
Nichols West is a small restaurant that has unexpectedly good food for such a small town.

Out here in Podunk-Ville, we live without a lot of amenities, like sidewalks, stop lights, bike lanes, and indoor toilets. But a great restaurant isn’t one of the missing. That’s why on trash days when Queen Anne and I are heading home from the dump, we’ll most likely be stopping off at Nichols West for breakfast.

Until next time – jw

Chicken S.O.S. – A He-Man’s Breakfast for Sissies Gourmet Photographer

With this recent cold spell passing through, it’s nice to have a change from the cold cereal that Queen Anne ‘cooks’ every morning.  I know that she tries to be creative, but sliced bananas and raisins only go so far. On days like these, I like something warm and hearty that sticks to the ribs. Since my brain isn’t up to speed at the crack of dawn, it needs to be simple to make. I came up with this concoction last year when our pantry was depleted and I liked it enough to keep it in my repertoire.

Campbells Cream of Chicken Soup
Cream of Chicken Soup – it makes a hearty breakfast too.

Back in my short military conscription days (yes kids, there was a time when they would come drag you from your home), breakfast was the meal that had the best choices of food. But between the steam pans of rubber scrambled eggs and fried hockey pucks, there was always a pot of gray gooey glop with bits of brown chunks in it. Its formal name was Chipped Beef on Toast, but it’s better known as S.O.S. (look it up). My dad liked it and even made it once. My sisters and I refused to eat it. We didn’t even taste it. Years later, my curiosity got the better of me when I saw some in a Stouffer’s box so I bought and tried it. Guess what! It was bad. I don’t know why because I like red-eye gravy on chicken fried steak and I’ll occasionally gag down an order of biscuits and gravy. It had to be the mystery-meat that was in it. So, in my recipe, I replaced it with known chicken parts and a better tasting gravy.

Ingredients

  • A 10 ½ ounce can of Cream of Chicken soup—like Campbell’s
  • ¼ cup of dry white wine—Vermouth, Sherry, Chardonnay it doesn’t matter.
  • ¼ cup of chicken broth
  • 8 ounces (about) of Costco Rotisserie Chicken meat (They sell yesterday’s leftovers in the deli which Anne freezes in 8-ounce portions).
  • A pinch of Poultry Seasoning or your own combination of celery flakes, sage, and thyme.
  • An English muffin for each serving.

Instructions

The consistency is important. You don’t want to make soup, but you don’t want the kindergarten paste that comes out of the can either. The mixture should sit on the muffin and ooze off slowly. I find that thinning the base with a half can of liquid works best. The wine provides an acidic brightness that I like, but a half can is too much. You can blend the wine and chicken stock to get the taste that you like. I use a 1:1 ratio, but you can use all wine, all chicken stock, or all water if that’s all you have. It doesn’t matter; you’re not supposed to have to think about math in the morning. Combine all the liquids into a pot and heat on medium-high.

As the sauce begins to heat, split and toast your muffins. Chop the chicken meat into smaller chunks and add that to the sauce. Season the mixture with herbs. There’s enough salt in the soup and chicken that you don’t need more, but you can add your favorite pepper if you like some spice. When the sauce starts to boil, cover and simmer on a low heat for five to fifteen minutes—stirring occasionally—allowing the seasonings to blend. Arrange the split English muffins on a plate and glop the gravy on top, then you can garnish with more herbs and maybe a pinch of cayenne or paprika for color. There is enough sauce for two servings so you can share with your sweetie or—better yet—you can have seconds if they turn their nose up.

Calories

  • Can of soup has 300
  • 8 oz of chicken breast is 300
  • Herbs add nothing
  • Wine is less than 30
  • Chicken stock is 10
  • English Muffin is 130

The entire pot and a muffin add up to 770 calories and a serving is about half (or less), so each serving is 385 calories. That’s less than two Krispy Crème doughnuts. It’s a warm hearty breakfast that tastes good if not downright decadent. Give it a try sometime and let me know what you think.

Till next time—jw

Bah—Humbug

I spent all day making this Christmas Card for you.

Candy Cane Remains
A plate full of candy cane crumbs is a sure sign that Santa was here.
Ginger Boy's Tragic Accident
Just because it’s the Holidays doesn’t mean you can ignore safety.
Perfect Dinner
Oh boy! I can’t wait for Christmas dinner because we’re having cranberry sauce molded in the shape of a can.

Until next time … jw

El Gato Azul

There are a lot of things we’re thankful for when we moved to Congress last year, but shopping isn’t one of them. Sure we have a couple of local grocery stores and merchants nearby that we make do for basics, and there’s always Amazon for the occasional weird stuff we need, but making a Costco run takes days of planning. The stores are far enough away that we plan our trip into town with multiple stops along the route. Shopping at the big box store is an all-day trip.

Our house is conveniently (if you can call it that) located midway between the two nearest stores. We exclude the one in Sun City because it’s impossible to maneuver around the golf carts and inattentive drivers. Our choice is between the Deer Valley store on I-17 and the one in Prescott. The drive time difference is literally five minutes, so the choice comes down to what other errands we need to run. If I need to pick up some hardwood, we go to Deer Valley. If I need something at Harbor Freight, we head to Prescott (for our friends out-of-state, the townspeople pronounce it ‘Press-kit’ and they’re not shy about correcting you). During the summer though, Prescott wins hands down because it’s in the pines and cooler.

When we make the Prescott run, Queen Anne and I try hard to build in time for lunch, and our favorite place there has become El Gato Azul a tapas place at 316 West Goodwin Street. Goodwin is the street that runs along the south side of the courthouse; the restaurant is two blocks east of Whiskey Row.

El Gato Azul Restaurant
Two blocks east of Whisky Row is the tapas bar, El Gato Azul.

The restaurant building is a small one story box on the east side of the Willow Creek trail. It’s smaller than most fast food chains, and the Dijon mustard colored façade has lavender ledges covered with potted plants and lights. The clutter almost obscures the sign.

To enter, you step down from the sidewalk (an access ramp is a few steps to the right) and walk through the bright blue door. Inside the dining room are two . . . maybe three tables and behind the hostess station, an ‘L’ shaped bar fills the rest of the room. The décor is a mix of upscale Goodwill and early garage sale interspersed with canvases from local artists. If you’ve come to eat, (why else would you be there) the host/hostess will escort you back outside through a door on the right. Here is a large covered main dining area that is open in summer, but enclosed with clear vinyl curtains in winter; portable heaters provide warmth.

The food that we expect at El Gato is not what you’d call rib sticking comfort food, but small dishes as you would find in a Spanish tapas bar, but with a southwest influence. It’s more of a tasting menu where you get an interesting burst of flavor combinations in one bite. As with a Chinese restaurant, it’s fun to pick out several items and share. One dish is not enough for a full meal, but the Queen and I fill up by sharing three items. It’s sort of like making a dinner out of a couple of appetizers. Plates range in price from $10-$13 each, so it’s not cheap. They offer a list of soft drinks along with the stocked bar.

Cajun Corn Dogs
One of the meals we enjoyed was their Cajun Corn Dogs. This consists of bacon wrapped tiger prawn fried in corn batter and a glaze of honey.

The next time you travel up Prescott way and you want to try something different, the Queen and I recommend you give El Gato Azul a try. We recommend it, even though Anne is now annoyed with me for letting The Blue Cat out of the bag.

Till then . . . jw

Yuma Again

Queen and I did our quarterly dentist run early this week. I’ve already talked about Algodones, so I don’t want to discuss the border town again, except to say that the weather has grown much warmer and the snowbirds that flock to the western Arizona counties have grown thin. The lines at the Customs Station are nil. We were able to get on the road home by 2:30 yesterday.

Today I want to talk about a couple of Yuma bright spots. There aren’t many, so when I find one, it’s a pleasant surprise. Yuma has a Marine base and in winter when the snowbirds arrive, its population triples . Other than that, most people only get off the interstate to top off the gas tank on their way to San Diego (or back).

If our dental visits call for lab work, we’ll book a room in a chain motel. Most of them include a (so-called) breakfast. Generally the fare consists of packaged microwave rubber omelets, assorted cold cereal, fruit, waffles (if you’re lucky) and/or toast and bagels. At best, it’s airline food, but it saves having to walk across the street to Mickey D’s. That’s what we did until our last trip when I convinced Anne to forgo the buffet for Brownie’s Café.

Browies Cafe
The place ain’t swank, but the place is always crowed and the food is old-fashioned good. Locate on South 4th Avenue off Interstate 8.

My first meal at Brownie’s was on a solo trip to Yuma. While exploring south 4th Avenue one morning, I spotted the large Café sign and thought that it would be really good or really bad, so I stopped to find out. The packed parking lot is usually a good sign. I stopped again with Jeff on our photo trip to the Salton Sea a couple of years later. After two more meals with Anne, I’m convinced it’s a gem right out of The Twilight Zone.

It’s a counter diner from the 1950s. The back dining area, crowed with tables and booths, is always filled with patrons, but on weekdays, you can usually find an open table. As you look around the room, you’re assured that this isn’t a campy place nostalgically decorated; this is the real thing and has probably been this way for thirty years. The building and the decor have been there for a while and they show wear. To put it bluntly; this is not a shiny new place. If that’s a key point of yours, go somewhere else.

In the table’s center are four beige half-inch thick industrial ceramic coffee cups. When you turn one right-side-up, the wait-staff instantly fills it without asking as they deliver the menus. The menu nothing fancy on it; instead there are all the items you’d expect. The plates are not large, but the food is properly cooked, just as you ordered.

My favorite is the Walt Kammann Sausage and eggs. The sausage is from a local butcher that has made it for over fifty years. It’s similar to a brat but spicier with flavors like linguica (Portuguese sausage) and lots of  fennel like you find in Italian sausage. The sausage is a point of pride in Yuma.

Yuma Mural
Anne checks her cell phone by one of the murals at Yuma Landing.

North of Brownie’s on 4th Avenue is a place called Yuma Landing with a Restaurant of the same name. I had always assumed that the name came from nautical origins, probably from Colorado Steamboats or something of that sort. I was mistaken. When we stopped to look at a monument, I found out the name comes from early aviation. In 1911, pilot Robert Fowler landed the first airplane ever in Arizona on that site. He was on a cross country trip flying a Wright Model B biplane which he completed in Florida forty-nine days later. The place has a plaque, a statue of Mr. Fowler and a couple of cool murals. It’s a big deal for Yumans . . . probably because nothing else interesting has happened in Yuma since.

Till then . . . jw

Ferndale Tonight – California

Today, I shot enough gingerbread houses to make my teeth hurt. We spent time walking around Old Town Eureka, which has a good collection of buildings from that period. That wasn’t enough. Fifteen miles down the road is Ferndale, with even more Victorian style buildings. After a half day of ornate buildings, I had to drive out into the countryside to shoot an unpainted barn to balance my senses.

Carson Mansion
If you bought a piece of redwood lumber in the 19th Century, this man cut the timbers.

Today’s weather was cool and overcast, as it is often along the northern coast of California. It’s not cloudy in the normal sense, it’s more of a fog that’s a couple hundred feet in the air. If you drive up any substantial hill, you’ll be in the clouds, and then looking down on them soon after that. It’s all due to the Humboldt Current (which is too long of a story for this blog).

For those of you that are unaware, I confess to being a ‘foodie’. I like to try new foods (to an extent). Since I like to cook, I try to recreate tastes that I like in my kitchen. I’m not a trained chef, but I’m an avid Food Network watcher, and I’ve seen every Dinners Drive Inns and Dives (Triple D) a couple of times. With that in mind, it surprised me to learn that the host, Guy Fieri is from Ferndale and worked at a couple of local restaurants before flying off to Europe for training. I learned all of this by reading an article pasted in the local paper’s window. Wow.

Ferndale Meat Company
This is one of the restaurants that Guy Fieri apprenticed at before running off to Europe for culinary training.

On our trips, we try to look up good places to have dinner. In Eureka, it’s obvious that the younger generation are more adept at online reviewing. The local brew house was the number one choice, while the seafood restaurant we ate at last night was down on the list. I’m sorry to disagree, but burgers and wings in a loud atmosphere don’t trump linen and superior seafood and immaculate service.

Not A Victorian House
Aackl! I just needed to photographer something that wasn’t painted in six colors.

Tomorrow we’re on the move again, this time to Fort Bragg. Or as I like to call it, the poor man’s Mendocino. It’s not that far of a drive, but we’ll likely spend a lot of time in the giant redwoods we’ll be driving through. Only the Sequoia’s in the Sierra’s are larger. I really want to take some time to capture their grandeur for you.

jw

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