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Nancy Eats Phoenix

Nancy Leson

When I returned from Phoenix last week — after attending the Association of Food Journalists conference and co-hosting the 2018 AFJ awards ceremony — Stein had just one question.

No, not “Who won?”but “What did you eat?”

Sure, I could have told him about the royal reception at Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum, where I sampled hand-milled heirloom chapalote corn tortillas, red okra, and mesquite-meal cookies with prickly pear jam. And (not incidentally) lifted an elbow while drinking Arizona rosé with Stein’s “girlfriend” (I mean favorite cookbook author) Andrea Nguyen. If that wasn’t enough, while there I got to ogle Elvis Presley’s GI uniform, Ravi Shankar’s sitar and the Hammond B-3 organ Joey DeFrancesco learned to play on — back when he was a 4-year-old in Chicago.

Joey D's first organ. Nancy and Andrea Nguyen

Perhaps I should have told him about the pilgrimage I (finally) made to Chris Bianco’s famous Pizzaria Bianco, after years of hearing how it’s the best pizza in the nation. (Nota bene: It was excellent, though I believe Seattle’s own Jerry Corso’s  pizza at Bar del Corso’s got it beat.) And I certainly should have told him about the pilgrimage I failed to make to Sing High Chop Suey House, a generations-old Cantonese classic, closed last week after 90 years in business under a single family ownership!

The least I could have done was bring him back some beautiful Black Sphinx dates, native to Arizona and now in season. But all I wanted to talk about was the memorable green chile stew I ate — on the go, in an UBER car — on my way to the airport heading home, and the enormous, thinner-than-thin flour tortillas I scored at The Original Carolina’s, a cinder-block sensation selling Mexican food to love-struck Arizonans since 1968.  

Credit Nancy Leson / KNKX
Nance brought some tortillas home and had them with eggs.

When I Instagrammed a video of the army of tortilla-makers at this third generation hotspot, little did I know that KNKX Director of Content Matt Martinez would begin to jones uncontrollably for the “happy place” that holds a special place in his hometown heart: Carolina’s. 

And that’s when Stein said: Let’s get Matt in on this week’s FFT! And so, we did. 

Had I known that in advance, I’d have flown straight from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma — just to see the look on Matt’s face when I delivered a half-dozen just-griddled tortillas ($3.25) with a pint of machaca ($5.85) on the side. And I’d have made him share it with Stein!

Nancy Leson is an award-winning food writer, radio personality, cooking instructor and public speaker who learned much of what she knows about food during her first career: waiting tables. Seattle readers know her as the mouth that scored — for the better part of two decades — as restaurant critic and food columnist for the Seattle Times. These days, when she’s not chatting about recipes or interviewing makers and shakers in the food world for KNKX, she helps end hunger, one loaf at a time, as the Edmonds hub coordinator for the Community Loaves project. Find her @nancyleson and at