Fry Bread House (in Phoenix)

My search was on. I can say that I have a sack of pennies worth of great Mexican food restaurants in Phoenix that I love, but it can become repetitive when switching dining spots and eating the same Mexican food (since I usually order the same thing wherever I go). Don’t get me wrong – I love it every time – but if you’re not aware, I am always in search of different twists on things.

In my short time of getting to know some of my favorite foods, people, and cultural influences, I have found that when you travel around this country as I do, you can find so many different versions of how Mexican food is made. For starters, I have a bias towards Mexican food in AZ and I couldn’t put my finger on why this was the case.

I had been hearing great things about this new Mexican restaurant in downtown Phoenix that had unbelievable red and green chile. Being an admirer of both, I had to try it. The place was all it was cracked up to be – great food, service and atmosphere. But (you didn’t think a but was coming did you?) it still was a sister of all the other regular Mexican food spots. I was in search of the cousin!

I walked away wondering what made this so similar besides the fact that it was Mexican food. Then it hit me. It’s a dessert that we all love and crave after we’re done eating good Mexican food…at least I do.  SOPAPIAS! Yes, this was it, the Native American influence of many of the Mexican food restaurants that I love so much here in Phoenix.

So I sat down one day at the computer and with a touch of a key here, a stroke over there, a little more fumbling with the keys and I pushed enter. A few random posts came up about a native American restaurant in downtown Phoenix called Fry Bread House. I’m there man!

It was one of my top priorties for a few days to make it into Phoenix to try this place. Some interuptions came up when I had planned visits, but it worked out that my little sis had a basketball game in North Phoenix and it just so happened that Fry Bread House was on the way to her contest. I rounded up the fam and headed out a little early to make sure we had time to stop and try the grub.

As we came closer to where Google maps had pointed to the location of the house, I realized that the name of the restaurant is accurate. It really is a house (note to reader: food served out of an old house is always great). Anyway, we walked in the front door and walked up to the counter. We were greeted by a lady manning the cash register and soda fountain. I scanned the menu and knew what I was here for.

We ordered and looked for a spot to sit. The dining area looked like the old living room of the house and about 10 or so picnic tables were scattered throughout. I patiently sat like a little kid waiting for my treats to arrive, but I already had one sitting in front of me – a red cream soda (my favorites of all favorites of any soda and this is one of the few places in town that serve it). Instant fifty extra bonus stars for this place. A few minutes had passed as I fell into a deep daydream of pleasure over my red soda. Then, my name was called.

First up was the hominy stew with beef, and if anyone knows Mexican food, they know that this is a staple in many dishes. It came with a clear broth with onions and “native seasonings,” they say, with big chunks of beef and fat hominy. Now that’s a soup. It might be my new favorite soup of all-time or at least a close second to menudo. This soup alone was worth the trip here, so who cares about the main food I ordered?

As I began to think that my taste buds couldn’t handle anymore pleasure, a grand smell of flour, water, and lard all FRIED refocused my attention and reminded me of what I was here for. The fry bread with red chile on it. As it sat in front of me, I couldn’t hold back and had to dig in.

The bread was so soft and gooey as I tore into it, it simply melted in my mouth. The red chile, no mistaking here, is done the right way. I would say now ‘forget the tortilla bring me the fry bread.’

As I left this place and began to drive off with an exhalting smile, I couldn’t help but come to terms with the feeling that this might have been my best meal of the last year. It was exciting to realize this, but sobering at the same time to wonder if I had been wasting my time eating at some of my other favorite spots since I have been home.

Well, at least now I know where to go when I’m craving  (in my opinion) the best meal I have had in a while. In fact, it was so good, I forgot to take pictures so I’m going back again soon and will add them. Until then…

Back in the saddle…

Well, it has been a while since I last updated my blog with a new review, but you’ve got to understand that it was a hectic last two months of the season. From us chasing the playoffs and holding on to be the NL West champs, to us starting playoffs and being on the road to start both series.

The season was a lot of fun we did have many “downs,” during but definately had more “ups” when it counted and just came up a little short. This was my second playoff experience and the first that I got a full taste of what its like to play on that stage.

The Cubs series was a blast. Many people doubted that we could go in there and take care of arguably the best team in baseball, but we were not lacking confidence when we marched into wrigley and won that first game. You could say it was our momentum from ending the season that helped us, but I’ve got to give some of the credit to T.J. Simers for reminding us everyday a month prior to the playoffs that “this organization had only won one playoff game in the last 20 years” (no pressure). It was nice to come back home with a two-game lead and win the series in front of our home crowd and allow them to enjoy the accomplishment.

Next up was Philly. I know it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, but what can you say? They were the hottest team at the right time and played unbelievable ball in the month of October. They made all the plays they had to and the ones they didn’t. They deserved to win that series  with the way they came together at the end. There are many things one could say we could of done differently, but we ran into a buzz saw. But for those of us returning, we are a year wiser and playoff tested to try a make another run in ’09.

Now that I am out of breath, I would like all my faithful readers and ones who might occasionally glance to know I will be starting soon a Spring Training review here in my hometown of Phoenix —  some of my fave spots in the desert to grab a good bite. I’ll try to make most of them around other Valley Spring Training sites, but btw I don’t do Tucson.

Hopefully this will give you guys a chance to plan ahead and get excited for the ’09 season. I’m not gonna lie — I love the off time and being at home but the itch to put on those Dodger blues is growing in my belly already. So let me be the first to welcome everyone to my hometown, where I grew up and the best place for Spring Training. Can’t wait to see you guys in February.


This ones hard to take

I feel that kicked-in-the-stomach feeling. After everything we’ve been through this year, to come this far and have it end like this, it leaves a sour taste and it will be tough to let it go. It will take a little time until I’m able to stop looking back at this and start getting the itch to get back at it.

We just had a lack of execution. I’m guilty. I was not getting on base in front of Manny so he could drive me in. He hit something crazy like .538 but we didn’t score enough runs. I have to get the job done a little better. I have to come back next year with the knowledge I’ve gained from this and be a better baseball player.

The writers have asked if I feel we were beaten by a better club. I don’t, no way. I’m not shy in saying that. They definitely beat us, but we also beat ourselves a bit. You can look at Game 1 and Monday’s game. If we don’t make mistakes in those games, we just as easily could have won them. They executed better than we did, no doubt.

As for next year, we’ll see if I’m here. You never know. I want to see what the off-season holds. We’ve got a lot of outfielders coming back.

As for this year, I want to thank the fans for their support, for showing up all year. It was a tough season with a lot of ups and downs. I appreciate your support and the encouraging words on and off the field and I hope to see everybody again in 2009.

I didnt get it done, we didnt get it done

To put ourselves in position to win that late in the game and let it slip away is a feeling hard to explain. A perfect example of how we didn’t come through was my at-bat in the eighth inning. They take the lead and Raffy leads off with a walk and I have an opportunity to deliver a big hit and a big RBI and I hit into a double-play. I came up in the sixth with runners on second and third and no outs and lined out. It’s a classic case of not taking advantage of the opportunity and that summed up the game for us. We have to hold ourselves accountable.

Now there’s nothing more we can do about this game. We have to be ready when the situation arises again Wednesday. We have to put this one out of our minds and figure a way to get it done. In that case, I didn’t get it done.

Tomorrow we’ve got a day off. I’ll have to try to find a way to relax and find something to take my mind off. But right now it’s sinking in that if we play this way again, it will be a whole lot worse than this. We’ll be packing up and going home and we’ll know we gave a series away to a team that is not better than ours. Nobody in here wants that.

A momentum shift

We took care of business the way we needed to tonight. The reporters were asking if we made a statement tonight. No statement. It’s just baseball. Now it’s over and we come back tomorrow and try to even the series. What happened with the brushbacks, it’s part of the game. It happened. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not. Emotions can get out of whack when games are this important. Both teams did a good job not escalating it further.

Right now, we’re in a totally different situation than we were when the day started. I won’t say today was a must-win, but we’ve switched the momentum to our side. The two games in Philly, we didn’t play our game. We weren’t aggressive. Tonight we played our style of ball.

It was great to see the fans come out tonight and stay until the end. They had a lot of energy, they weren’t down because of the two losses, they weren’t distraught. They were behind us the whole game. I hope tomorrow they’re behind us the same way.

We’ve got Derek pitching tomorrow. I wasn’t aware of that until tonight. We’re going with the three-man rotation and all three of them have been there for us all year. They’ve been so consistent. It’s up to the offense to respond and put some runs on the board like we did tonight.

Turn the page

That was the longest flight of the year. We ran into 110-mph headwinds that made the flight six hours long. I had a whole row and had three TV screens going and one of them has the in-flight status and I’m playing a puzzle and it seems like forever and I look at the screen and we’re not even over Nebraska. I finally fall asleep and six hours after we take off I’m bounced awake by a very turbulent final approach. I mean, I started saying my prayers.

But here we are at the workout and I’m glad we’re home. I’m not happy with the situation, we didn’t win a game back there in Philly, but we’re back in our park and they haven’t beaten us here. We know we can beat them here and get this series back on a better note.

On the flight, there was some discussion about the way we played in Philly. There was some venting and some frustration, mainly that we didn’t execute and take care of business back there.

We need to come out tomorrow night with the swagger and the chip on our shoulder and know we can beat these guys and know we’re a better team. We believe that and we have to have that in our minds. We have to show no doubt, show that we’re not intimidated or fearful. We have to play like it’s zero-zero, even though it’s not. What’s happened in the past is over.


Home cookin

This is a tough situation to be in, but on a good note, at least we’re going home. We’ll be back in the comfort of our park with the memory of our last game there, the clinching game over the Cubs. The Phillies know they haven’t won a game there this year, so the tables are turned. We just have to take it to them. We didn’t do that here.

We’ve been down before this year, but coming back from an eight-game losing streak isn’t the same as this. This is a whole different ballgame, what’s going on here. Yeah, we’re a little discouraged with the situation we’re in, but no one on this team is really in a panic. We’re in the situation we’re in and that’s what it is. We’ve got to regroup, refocus in practice tomorrow and get back to taking the game to them. We can’t be on our heels Sunday and expect to win. We have to be aggressive and play the kind of game we played in the first round.

I wouldn’t say necessarily that the Phillies are a more difficult team to play than the Cubs, but the magnitude of the series might be a little bit of a factor. We’ve got this chance and we realize the situation is right now. It’s definitely a different level, what we’re now facing. It’s not a comfortable feeling. But there were times during the regular season that weren’t comfortable. We showed we could get out of trouble and figure a way to win. Why not now?

A sour start

It was exciting to get this series started. I know, the first game didn’t go too well. But I’ve got to say, there’s a hoopla in this city I wasn’t expecting. I felt it last night, when I went out to dinner with Hong-Chih Kuo and Takashi Saito to a Japanese restaurant in town. Had some pretty good sukiyaki. You could see this city is pumped up for this series. I was taking it all in, while still trying not to get caught up in it all. Joe reiterates through all of this how he never got the chance to play in postseason as a player and you never know how many other opportunities you’ll get, so enjoy it.

The outcome tonight wasn’t so enjoyable. Utley’s home run, that was a pop-up. But that’s the advantage of playing in a field like this. It is what it is. We made a mistake and they capitalized and used the field to their advantage. On Utley’s ball, I thought I had a good bead on it, then I looked at the fence and thought I didn’t have a chance, then it started coming down but was carrying and it snuck in two or three rows deep.

And Manny, he hit a ball to the highest, farthest point you can hit a ball here and it’s a double. That’s the way it goes here. This park is quirky. There are a lot of things about it. There’s Plexiglas that you can’t even see unless you’re right in front of it. There are balls that you don’t even know if they’re in play. Joe just told us everything’s a live ball until you’re told otherwise.

Tonight leaves a sour taste in your mouth. To score two runs in this ballpark, two runs are not enough in this park, not even when the game seems to be in your hands. We’ll have to do better tomorrow. We have to win a game here sometime if we’re going to win the series. It’s best to do it now.

No debating, its a tough series

We’ll have four days off between Saturday night’s clincher and Thursday night’s opener of the NLCS and we’re ready to get going again. These two teams are pretty even. We split the eight games we played. We got swept here and they got swept in L.A. We didn’t play well here and they didn’t play well there. We just need to come out with the same intensity as the first series in Chicago. The Phillies are tough in their ballpark.

The weather was perfect for the workout today. I won’t really be focusing on the game until I wake up tomorrow. For me, I just can’t keep the concentration up for that long. I’ll relax tonight, maybe walk around the downtown area near our hotel. You hear horror stories about Philadelphia, but the area we’re in has some nice shops and I’ll be exploring for a new restaurant, although I won’t be spending that much money with the economy so bad.

At least, that’s what I got out of the debate last night. I know we’re having some tough times right now, but the way they were talking, it sounded like the world was going to end. It’s sort of comical to listen to that. I’m sure some people are struggling with their house payment and that’s serious. But I’m not feeling sorry if some hedge fund managers have to find a job. This is my second presidential election and it sounds like the same old story.


Another good shower

See my headline? That’s the way I’ll remember the clinching celebrations. We’re having them once a week now, how sweet is that? To be honest, I didn’t even know if we were going to have one tonight. I mean, a lot of us didn’t know how to do this clinching stuff. We’ve never been here before. We didn’t know if there would be champagne and beer and stuff, or if we’d just play the music in the clubhouse and high-five and go home and wait to see who we play. So, that’s why I say we had another good shower tonight. I could get the hang of this.

The crowd was great tonight. They were waving towels and the noise level, I can’t remember it being like this at Dodger Stadium.

Kuroda, he was lights-out for six innings. He left Chicago a day ahead of the rest of us so he could get his normal rest and I had to give him a hard time before the game today for leaving early. I told him he’d better pitch his best game of the year, if he’s going to leave us like that, and he pretty much did. I’ve never seen him so emotional as he was after the game.

Now, we have to pay attention to the other series, who our opponent is going to be, play out the scenarios. Tomorrow, I’m going to spend some time with my family — they’re all in town, my wife and brothers and sisters and parents and grandparents and cousins and in-laws. They all came in from Phoenix. And they got to see a little history. How great is that?