Football season is here and tailgaters are saving their parking spots for cooking and pre-game partying. The Birdgang Travel Club will be out and about psyching up Cardinals fans up for 2019 season. The NFL team has high hopes after drafting first taking QB Kyler Murray. One of the Birdgang’s first event is at BBQ Island in Tempe for a “Tailgating 101” cooking class.
Saturday August 24th the class will teach fans to cook brisket stuffed jalapeño poppers, smoked chicken wings and more.
“We started Birdgang Travel Club as a way to show our dedication to the Red Sea across the great state and beyond. It’s been so much fun putting events together, celebrating with friends and making new ones each season,” said Tyler Vasquez, Co-Founder, Birdgang Travel Club.
Space is limited for “Tailgating 101” that goes from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the BBQ Island Tempe 1715 W. Ruby Dr. #105 85284. Tickets need to be pre- purchased for $50 or $45 for 2 or more.
More Birdgang Travel Club events
The die hard Cardinals fans are planning to hit the road with the team a couple of times this season. Reservations are being taken for road trips to Oct. 24-28 to New Orleans and Nov. 7-11 in Tampa Bay vs former head coach Bruce Arians.
Home games they huddle up at Majerle’s Sports Bar in Chandler before busing out to Glendale. The safe ride option offers breakfast buffet, a tailgate lunch and a ride to & from the stadium for $65. Tickets to the game and alcohol are notincluded. Fans are welcome to bring beer and alcohol for the ride over to the game. Tickets need to be pre-purchased.
“We started out as a small group of friends that would travel to away games but found it to be very expensive in small groups and quickly realized that by traveling in larger groups we could save a ton of money and have a lot more fun! So, we started Birdgang Travel Club as a way to take some of the work and expense out of individual travel planning. Now, after four years of traveling as a group, we are booking 200-300 fans at a time and are able to pass along an amazing experience and savings to our members,” continued Vasquez.
Like many of us living in Arizona, I too came from somewhere else. Across the river from New York City in suburban New Jersey I grew up on take-out pizza, diner food, and bagels. Despite many New York and New Jersey transplants opening restaurants serving food from our home state those foods just taste better back east. Whenever I head back for a visit I head for my favorite foods and I was back a couple of weeks ago.
Most people wouldn’t visit these family restaurants in suburban Bergen County unless you’re visiting family or friends in the area. But if you live there or happen to be traveling through the small towns that dot the metro area they’re easy to find.
When you don’t know what you want or everybody wants something different a local diner is always a good call. So with family who flew into town we headed to to Matthews Colonial Diner in Waldwick. Wanting a char-broiled burger I opted to eat healthy knowing there would be plenty of food this week. The Beet & Goat Cheese Salad was a solid and out of the ordinary choice for me. My family knowing my eating habits gave me the “are you feeling ok” look when the word salad came out of my mouth.
Seems like Italian food reigned the week with 2 or 3 meals as we wound having pizza or pasta delivered. A favorite of my sister and her family is The Sicilian Sun in Ho-Ho-Kus. Whether we walk over to dine-in or have it delivered it rarely disappoints. Ordering take-out I went pasta free ordering Chicken Scarpello with sausage, pepperoncini, mushrooms, garlic and a touch of garlic. So good I may have to head back sooner than later to get it again.
Wednesday lunch had a group of 20 family and friends at the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern for a 4 course lunch. Lots of history at this place that was constructed in 1796. The entree course had your typical, beef, chicken and fish option along with Bolognese Tagliatelle. I had the latter, I told you there was a lot of Italian food.
In the city
A trip to New Jersey isn’t complete without a visit to New York City. Thursday I caught a ride to lower Manhattan’s Financial District to play tourist and walk off the calories I consumed.
Getting into the city early I grabbed a a quick lox, egg & tomato bagel from the Park Place location of Lenwich, a local chain of sandwich shops I’ve never experienced before. Not my typical bagel and lox combination but it gave me the fuel I needed to pound the pavement.
Meeting a friend for lunch who had little time we opted for “street meat” from a food truck nearby. The city is know for it’s food trucks and carts offering a quick and reasonably priced lunch. We went for Mediterranean food and I opted for a falafel sandwich and my friend with a chicken and rice. Filling portions for only $5 each. The weather was one of the nicer days so we opted for a park bench to eat and chat.
Back on the Jersey side
Thursday dinner had us ordering in…… pizza from Anthony Franco’s Pizzeria. A visit to Jersey wouldn’t be a visit to Jersey without a couple of pizza pies. Sausage, onions, mushrooms and more topping our pies a few slices for now and few left for later.
In between rain drops on Friday I decided to give in to my burger craving at Red Cedar Market Season Kitchen for their RCM Mushroom and Swiss burger. This busy cafe made the best burger I’ve had in a while. Made to order and cooked to my preferred medium rare and drizzled with truffle oil and served with delicious fries.
Dinner had heading to the State Line Diner, a couple of miles south of the New York state border on Route 17. So much to choose from I didn’t know what I was going with until the words “Roat Beef & Swiss Cheese Triple Decker sandwich with a side of Steak Cut Onion Rings” came out. The rare roast beef was good but I wish I hadn’t ordered the onion rings as I compared them to a hometown favorite pile from the defunct Louie’s Charcoal Pit.
A quick trip upstate to Saratoga Springs
Saturday afternoon I drove up the New York Thruway to visit a friend I met in Arizona who re-located back home to upstate New York.
Once arriving I made my way to Broadway, the main drag in Saratoga Springs, waiting for my friend to get off work. The best weather of my visit had people out & about on this late Saturday afternoon and I found Druthers Brewery for a cold Raspberry Nut Brown Ale. It hit the spot before I strolled the downtown to Congress Park to taste the spring water known for in the area.
With other friends taking the train from Boston for an overnight visit the plan was for a festive Paella dinner. After wine, a generous portion of charcuterie and realizing it was late our Paella dinner was tabled until Sunday brunch. Made from scratch with each the chicken, shrimp and chorizo cooked separately we all watched and helped prepare as we sipped on our cups of Spot Coffee, an upstate coffee roaster.
Dinner on Sunday night in Saratoga had us paying a visit to get this, a new Italian restaurant Solevo Kitchen & Social. For an appetizer we ordered the tasty Eggplant Chips drizzled with Calabrian Chili Honey and basil. My friends ordered the Sunday Sauce, rigatoni and meatballs in a San Marzano plum tomato sauce and Gnochhi with wild mushrooms, arugula, rosemary in a brown butter sauce.
After seeing several Items I’d already had that week I went with The Cortile, a mix of prosciutto, sweet peas, ground veal in a plum tomato & cream sauce with tagliatelle. Red wine and my Pinky Ring cocktail accompanied our meal and all were satisfied for our walk home.
Back to Jersey then back to Arizona
After a fun visit upstate I made my trip back down to New Jersey Monday morning. Deciding to raid my sisters cabinets and refrigerator for late lunch and early dinner I opted not to order….Italian food for dinner. Despite my best efforts to taste my niece and nephews Chicken Parmigna their like me very protective of their food. Early Tuesday I was on a plane back to my current home, Scottsdale.
More New Jersey and New York eats on my next visit east. See my Instagram for pictures of my visit @SandyWass
Most people spend their Spring Break heading to beaches or somewhere exotic. I spent my Spring Break road tripping to Salt Lake City to explore the city and food scene. I enjoyed meals at locally owned restaurants based on the recommendation of my friend who has spent the last year living in the area.
The 10 hour drive from Phoenix to Salt Lake City we knew we’d have to stop for at least one meal on the way up. Heading through Page and past Lake Powell into southern Utah you don’t have a lot options once you cross the border. Most meals were under $20 with a couple just above.
First 24 hours in Utah
We decided to stop for dinner in Kanab and pulled into Big Al’s Burgers Drive-In. Kanab is the main route as you head from eastern Arizona to the national parks of southern Utah and points north. A nice little town before you head up the back roads towards I-15. Big Al’s is exactly what you’d expect, burgers, fries, shakes and a few other drive-in favorites. I went with Double Rustler Burger value meal, a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake. Friendly service and made to order food made for a positive first impression of the Utah food scene. It was also my first experience being asked if I wanted “Fry Sauce”. Expect to be asked for this mayo ketchup combo in Utah when ordering fries and other fried foods. I declined as I prefer only ketchup but did taste my friends sauce. It was exactly what you’d expect.
After we made our way through the canyons and over the mountain pass into the night and a snowstorm we arrived late in the night at our destination.
After sleeping in and eggs and coffee at my friend’s place for breakfast we made our way for a mid-afternoon dim sum lunch at Cafe Anh Hong. In a small strip mall full of far east restaurants Anh Hong wasn’t the traditional dim sum restaurant. No ladies pushing carts full of dim sum delicacies but a picture menu under the plexiglass table top. Tell them what you want and everything is made to order. Many dim sum favorites to satisfy your dim sum cravings.
A late dinner was a homemade 24 hour sous vide short rib over risotto prepared by my host was so good I had to mention it.
Breakfast & lunch in Salt Lake City
Waking up the next morning we made our way to the Draper location of La Barba Coffee. Considered one of the if not the best coffee in SLC we sat there sipping our coffee pondering where to go for breakfast. Sipping on a Guatemalan drip coffee I paid more attention to it than I normally would a cup of coffee, it was good cup.
Desiring a breakfast burrito we drove to Taqueria El Gallo Loco in Sandy. I went with Chorizo burrito which was a little light on chorizo for my liking. My friend went with a bowl of Tripe thoroughly enjoying it. We ordered the Flan for dessert (yeah at breakfast) and glad we did, it was topped with toasted coconut and was so good. The owner and our server were friendly and offered good service. I’d give them another shot at a Chroizo burrito.
A mid-afternoon lunch had me desiring an Italian deli sandwich and my friend knew right where to go. We made our way to the 15th & 15th location of Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli where I went with The Caputo. Prosciutto, mortadella, salami, provolone and all the fixings. They dress it with balsamic vinegar as opposed to red wine vinegar which was an interesting choice. Served on an artisan roll I’d come back again. Check off Italian deli off my list.
Enjoying the neighborhood that Tony’s is in we went across the street to Sweetaly for a cup of gelato. It hit the spot after my meaty sandwich.
Park City here we come
With the ski town of Park City less than an hour away we headed into the mountains for lunch. It’s “Mud Season” in Park City so some restaurants close down for a few weeks. We found out the hard way when we wanted to grab a bite to eat at High West Distillery & Saloon. We wound up the brew pub of Wasach Brewing with brunch in full effect. Sipping on an Apricot Hefe with my Wasach burger made for a tasty Park City experience. The Wasach burger is made with buffalo meat and topped with a spicy Cajun remoulade.
I vetoed lunch a Tekila for the brew pub but my friend highly recommends it.
In case you’re wondering dinner at friend’s house back in SLC for homemade corn chowder and cake.
Final day in Salt Lake City
A lazy Sunday morning had us getting a slow start and finally motivating in early afternoon. We picked up a friend and decided to head for something new to me.
A couple of doors down from dim sum was Kungfu Hotpot where I experienced Hotpot cooking for the first time. A pot of mild and spicy boiling broth we filled it with beef, pork, mushrooms, vegetables and more letting it cook to our desired temperatures. The All-You-Can-Eat restaurant had us ordering more piles of beef, greens and seafood balls until I threw down my chopsticks and said “no more”. An interesting experience I’m not sure I could find in Phoenix.
Just a few miles from downtown SLC we made our way to Temple Square to see the gardens, the state capitol and the University of Utah. One last stop before we headed to my friend’s place for the night, Dolcetti Gelato. The Blueberry Balsamic & Rosewater treat to finish my foodie visit to SLC hit the spot after the spicy hotpot.
SLC looks to have a great restaurant scene as I scanned local magazines and websites. Locally owned restaurants and several chains I’ve never seen before looked interesting. I hope to return one day to eat my way through more of what there is to offer. If you find yourself in Salt Lake City on a Sunday be aware that many restaurants aren’t open, even those you’d expect to be including coffeehouses.
To see pictures of my trip to SLC follow me on Instagram @SandyWass