P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll – Phoenix, AZ

In my last post I mentioned Patricia and I were taking on the challenge of running 11 half-marathons this year. Our first stop on the tour was on January 19th, in sunny Phoenix, AZ for the P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon. For this particular trip we did it as a whirlwind overnight trip.

Phoenix Airport

We flew into Phoenix Saturday morning, the flight on Southwest was relatively short so we didn’t leave until around 9am. Our first stop in Phoenix after the airport was the expo in downtown at the convention center. To get there we hopped a light rail train from the airport to downtown. The first thing I noticed as we headed to downtown was just how desolate and well, brown everything was. The entire town seemed to be made up of 2 story brown buildings.

Arriving downtown we picked up our race packets at the fairly packed expo then went hunting for some food.

Cartel Aricha

We ended up checking out Cartel Coffee Lab at their downtown location. There we sampled some pretty tasty coffee’s that they roast, along with some tasty food bites. If you’re ever in Phoenix or passing through the airport be sure to check out Cartel as they know what they’re up to when it comes to coffee (see my coffee review for one of the coffees at: ).

Cartel Croquets

For food we got some beef croquettes which were pretty tasty. If I’m ever back in town I’d love to check out some more of their food options.

After a bite to eat we headed to the Hotel which was located in Tempe, AZ home to Arizona State University (ASU). To get there we hopped back on the light rail where we journeyed by even more short brown buildings. So far Phoenix wasn’t really looking like a place I’d want to live. ASU itself didn’t really give a very good impression either, on getting off the train we saw a guy take a piss on the shelter for the tram stop. He couldn’t be bothered to water a bush directly behind him.

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start Line

The race itself was pretty fun, we got up early and walked about a mile to the start. The start line was pretty packed, once we got around to the starting side. The race itself ran through Tempe, then headed north into Scottsdale. Most of the race ended up running past more of those short brown buildings. Sadly the parts of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe we journeyed by didn’t really give us anything to look forward to.

Top of the race

There were a couple of scenic parts at the end. Mile 10 was an uphill battle and put us at the top of a butte overlooking downtown Phoenix. This was probably the best view of the entire run, my iPhone picture doesn’t really do it justice. On the way down from there we ran through the desert botanical gardens which were pretty in a desolate sort of way. We also ran by the spring training facility of the Oakland A’s which is in Scottsdale.

Ra Ra Riot

The band at the end of the race was one of the best I’ve seen for a Rock and Roll run. The end of the race band in this case was Ra Ra Riot whom I saw last year at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Oddly no one was into the band and it was possible to get right up in front. I felt sort of bad for them since they flew all the way out to Phoenix from New York just for this event. Patricia had a lot of fun and found some energy to dance around despite having just finished a 13.1 mile run.

Four Peaks Brewing Sampler

After the race we made our way over to Four Peaks brewing the local microbrewery where I had a sampler of beer and a sandwich along with some “beer bread”. While the food was  pretty good the beer was nothing to remember. In fact their flagship beer is a scotch ale, one of my favorite styles but the one in the sampler was pretty meh. I thought their best beer was Peach Ale which was as advertised a peach flavored ale. Even that wasn’t top of the heap as I prefer the fruity beers from Lost Coast up in NorCal. In the end none of the beers were really bad, but nothing was particularly stand out either.

Phoenix Castle

Patricia has a friend living in Phoenix and we met up with him at Four Peaks and after dinner he took us on a brief tour of greater Phoenix/Scottsdale. At this point we saw the “rich” side of town which looked a bit less run down than what we’ve seen so far. We saw some multimillion dollar homes, and he took us up a ridge where we saw a castle and the sun setting over the city.

Sunset over Phoenix

After checking out the rich side of town we went looking for some good coffee and ended up back at Cartel Coffee Labs, this time at the original location. Turns out the roastery itself is also a small nano brewery with a tiny 10 gallon brew sculpture.

Cartel Coffee Porter

Cartel Coffee Labs Brew Sculpture

There I had a coffee brown ale which was excellent. It was a nice nutty brown ale with some cold brew coffee flavors. It was definitely on par with Surly’s Coffee Bender which is one of my favorite brews. I also tried a taste of their F.Y.T.I.M. which was a not too hoppy (but still hoppy) imperial IPA. It was probably on par with some of the west coast DIPA’s such as Pliny the Elder.  These guys seem to know what their doing with both coffee and beer which is an interesting combination. Finally we hitched a ride with Patricia’s friend to the Phoenix airport and headed back home to the Bay Area.

There is such a thing as too much Garlic

For Christmas this year my Mom and Dad got me a KitchenAid Pro mixer. I had been planning to get one of these for awhile since all I have for mixing is a wooden spoon. While a spoon works for many things, it makes baking more work than it’s worth.

Today I  cleaned up my kitchen a bit and made some room for the mixer. This thing is huge and takes up a large chunk of my counter. Honestly, I don’t really have enough room for this beast. Especially as I still have a deep fryer from my last cooking “experiment” sitting around.

Anyhow, after rearranging and wiping off my counter I whipped up a batch of pizza dough (recipe courtesy of my graduate advisor’s husband). Making the dough was a cinch with the new mixer. Just add water, yeast, flour, oil, salt, and sugar. Turn on the dough hook and wait 10 minutes. Of course I had to wait an hour for the dough to rise but at least I didn’t make a huge mess kneading it.

So once I got some finished risen dough I put it to use,  sadly I couldn’t make a pizza since I had no cheese. Instead I decided to make a few small balls of dough, and bake it up as a pizza dough twists to go with the pasta I was making.

To top the rolls I made an olive oil, garlic, basil, and oregano pesto like mix to coat the buns. Since I had no recipe I pretty much threw these ingredients in randomly. Sadly I put way too much garlic powder in. In fact I had enough the rolls had a bit of a garlic “bite” to them.

While the rolls were still good this is one case were I’d say I used too much garlic. Despite the overabundance of garlic I think my first mixer experiment was a success. I’m now considering starting to bake my own fresh bread since it was so easy.

More Cheese

Been awhile since I’ve posted but I do have a few things in the queue.

I did manage to find more cheese out here in CA. In fact I did find cheese curds at the farmer’s market in Campbell.

Campell Farmer's Market

Curds at the Market

With curds in hand I decided I needed to improve them by turning them properly molten. To that end I ordered a Deep Fryer off Amazon.com. In just under a weeks time I had everything I needed to transform the curds into molten goodness.

The Fryer

Deepfryer in hand I was now able to fry some curds. Just in case the curds didn’t turn out I also decided to make some french fries.

Fries Frying

While the fries were frying I whipped up some batter for the curds.

The Batter and Curds

Battering time! As you can see I froze the curds prior to this step so they’re all stuck together.

Frozen Curds Meet Batter

While preparing the curds the fries got done. Golden and delicious!

Golden Fries

Time for the newly battered curds to take a plunge. At this point the batter is still pretty damp and dripping off the curds.

Curds about to take the plunge

Fry time.

Frying the curds

Fried curds all molten and golden. That light stuff floating around them are bits of batter that became detached during the frying. It seems my homemade batter was a bit thick and some of it floated off in the fryer.

Golden Curds

Oops I tried to dump them out but I made the mistake of having runny batter on the curds when they went in. The batter has cooked itself around the fry basket and so the curds won’t come out. I did manage to eat the curds by hacking them out of the basket.

The Basket and Curds Melded Together

I also made some brats for a full WI meal.


Due to the batter melding to the basket I wasn’t able to actually fry all the curds. I ended up freezing a bunch of them for later. Using frozen curds with frozen batter works a lot better when frying. They still ended up as a giant lump since I cooked them to long but at least they came out of the basket.

Golden Curds for Real