Sunday, January 27, 2008

Also while in Vegas: Red Mango

UPDATE: I just found out that the Las Vegas location has closed. If you're up in Vegas, there's one over in Henderson on Eastern just south of the 215.

I almost can't believe I'm writing up a frozen yogurt place.  I've been eating frozen yogurt for decades now, and for the most part it really doesn't deviate from a pretty basic standard no matter where you are.  Some places (like Mesa Frozen Yogurt over on Gilbert and Southern in Mesa AZ) become noteworthy by an extensive list of flavors, but in the end... it's just frozen yogurt.

Until I went to Red Mango in Las Vegas, off the strip across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel.

Red Mango is the first of a new wave of frozen yogurt places.  The most well-known of these is Pinkberry, a chain that is all the rage in southern California.  The Pink may be the most well-known, but they got their idea from Red Mango.  This yogurt is different from other frozen yogurts you've had.  It's not as sweet, and there's a good hit of tanginess that makes it taste more like, well, yogurt.  Red Mango only has two flavors: a plain Original, and the same laced with matcha green tea (a $1 upcharge regardless of size).  They offer a variety of fruit and not-too-sugary sweet things (including breakfast cereals like Cap'n Crunch) to top the yogurt.  And that's it.  Perfectly simple.  And oh, so delicious.  My friend and I both found it to be a perfect pit-stop from excessive running amuck on the Strip; a couple of bites and we both went from worn out to ready for more action.  Better still, as far as frozen desserts go this stuff is darn near virtuous, with just 90 wee calories in a half-cup small.  For comparison's sake, 90 calories of Ben & Jerry's is a hair over three tablespoons.  And Red Mango's yogurt is somehow every bit as satisfying.

I'll be damned if this isn't the best frozen yogurt I've had anywhere.  It's quite possibly the best frozen dessert I've ever eaten.  I love my Lombardo's Gelato down here in Phoenix, but all the gelato I've had doesn't come close to the deliciousness that is Red Mango yogurt.  We're talking not so much "Wow, this is good, how much is another cup?", we're talking "Wow, this is good, how much are the franchise rights?"  I can hardly wait for one to open down here in Phoenix.  Until then, I hope a craving doesn't strike, otherwise I'll find myself in Vegas practically before I can blink.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ah yes, back at the Peppermill...

If there was ever a reason for me to move to Las Vegas, I think that this:

would be it.  This is the Fresh Fruit served up at the Peppermill on the Las Vegas Strip.  Of all the amazing places up and down the strip, this is absolutely THE place that I must visit.  Most places have a place that they have to hit the moment they get back from vacation, I have a place that I have to hit the moment I arrive at my destination.  The Fresh Fruit is a ridiculously huge pile of fruit, with nine different kinds of fruit all piled up in a fashion that reminds diners of Carmen Miranda's hat.  It is accompanied by a small loaf of banana bread, and a choice of ice cream, rainbow sherbet, or cottage cheese.  As fun as it is to get rainbow sherbet with a breakfast item, I'd have to say to get the cottage cheese unless you're ordering this as a side to split between four people.  With the ice cream or sherbet, it's just all sweet and your palate suffers from overload.

We ended up back at the Peppermill after a rough night for me at the Flamingo (I really want to know how on earth their engineering department thought it would be a good idea to leave the room completely devoid of functional reading lights!), slurping down a Scorpion (completely different from the Trader Vic's recipe but still darn tasty) and nibbling an appetizer platter in their iconic Fireside Lounge.  I've now decided that not only am I replicating a Peppermill booth in my dining room, I'm making a flaming fountain like the Peppermill one in my backyard.  I just love everything about the Peppermill.  It's not the best food you'll find on the strip, there are literally scores of places that offer up better food.  The Peppermill is just a simple little coffee shop done right, by people who care about what they serve up.  I sort of wish that there was a Peppermill around here somewhere, but then it might not have quite the same special cachet of the Las Vegas one.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Review: Ranch House Grille, Phoenix AZ

The recent buzz on the Chowhound board has been about a new breakfast place in the Arcadia district called Overeasy.  I was all set to go and try it this morning... and whoever told me that they open at 6 AM is a dirty stinker.  We got there a little after 6 and saw that the chairs were still up on the tables.  My roommate and I were a little downtrodden, until he remembered that Ranch House Grille was definitely open.

I was looking over the menu, trying to figure out what to try this time, when I remembered the words of the great Seth Chadwick the last time we spoke.  Those words were to get the green chili covered chicken fried steak.  I'm already a fan of Ranch House's CFS; it's seriously one of the best in town.  Little did I know, with their pork green chili stew instead of gravy, it's even better.  The cooks turn out a damn fine green chili, with a nice blend of spice and herbaceousness, and it complements the chicken fried steak incredibly well.  I got pancakes instead of toast, and was certainly pleased with them.  My roommate decided to get biscuits and gravy with his meal, and as we chatted with the waitress I found out that the cooks changed up the biscuit recipe so they weren't the dry mammoth clunkers they were serving before.  This is a good thing; something about those biscuits seemed like they were made somewhere else and trucked in.  The new biscuits... still need work.  They need to bring in a Southern grandma to show the proper light touch with biscuits.  These ones were a little tough, but they were still a minor improvement over the previous biscuits.

I'm finding more and more that Ranch House is one of my favorite regular stops for breakfast.  The food is excellent and hearty, the cooks know how to cook an over easy egg (really, I'm amazed at the hit-to-miss ratio on something that they'd have to do dozens of times daily), the waitress is down-home and friendly, the prices are right, and it just has that right feel that makes you want to come back time and time again.

Now to wait until 6:30 next time so I can at least try Overeasy next time.