Friday, September 17, 2010

Greek in Phoenix

Ah, Phoenix in the Summertime. I told Boss Lady emphatically that I wasn't gunning for a trip to Phoenix for the sake of air miles. It was July - the locals don't want to be in town at that time of the year so why would I want to go there on purpose? Duty called, however, so off to the desert I went where I found to my surprise that the stated temperature of 108 wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. What turned out to be sadly worse than expected unfortunately was the meal I experienced in neighboring Tempe.

The collegiate among you will know that Tempe is the home of Arizona State University, the Sundevils where all along Mill Avenue, "The Strip" running north/south along the western edge of the campus are bookstores, incense and candle shops, clothing stores and restaurants from greasy spoons to major chains. Co-workers one evening suggested "My Big Fat Greek Restaurant" in the heart of the strip and I figured it would be an interesting evening, Mediterranean food in the middle of the desert.

Two of us arrived well before the third so it was conversation in the well appointed patio area where it was sufficiently cool not to require the ubiquitous misters. These nifty devices that Dallas needs more of spray cooling mist on the patrons to encourage al fresco dining or help in the transition from the swelter of outside to the air-conditioned comfort of hotels and restaurants. We were seated quickly and the waiter was on his game throughout the evening.

There was no Greek band or music playing which actually was quite fine with me. I enjoy "atmosphere" but like Louisiana zydeco, unless it is in my blood it gets old pretty fast.
I started with a bowl of "avgolemono," or Greek chicken soup which was crisp and flavorful while my companion needed to eat early and run (although she ended up staying) and ordered the gyros. Maybe I'm spoiled but I generally refuse to eat gyros in the United States as it consists of "pressed" meat combining lamb and either beef or chicken. In Europe the meat slowly revolving on the vertical spit roaster is clearly carved from something that had hooves and is far more flavorful despite being a tougher chew. Our third companion finally arrived who also ordered gyros while I went with the 20 ounce bone in lamb shank.

What a disappointment. What meat there was to be had was rich, flavorful and fork tender. The majority of the cut in front of me, however, was bone and fat. I enjoy bone-in steaks and am the kind of diner who will strip the bone completely before cutting and tucking in to the meat itself; that way I don't have to wrestle with it all through the meal. By the time I finished de-boning the lamb in front of me I was amazed at how much of it was inedible. Further and final disappointment came when asking the waiter if the 20 ounces was the entire dish or the net weight of the meat itself. It was the whole thing.

Well, it was good for my prodigious waistline at least, and I might dine there again but most definitely on something other than this "new" house specialty!

Gotta go.

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