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.
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.
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!