Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tired Tomatoes, Cranky Cucumbers and Balky Beans.

No, this isn’t a salad gone bad, it’s a vegetable garden in July. Fountain Hills is a terrific place for all sorts of things, but not for growing vegetables in the middle of summer. No matter how much water they receive the plants are pooped. The tomatoes won’t set when the temperature is above 100 degrees because the pollen dries out before it gets to fertilize the flower stamen. The cucumbers are in a permanent state of wilt. They might perk up around 4:00 in the morning but I am not going out there with a flashlight to find out. The green beans should be renamed the yellowish brownish beans.

The lantana looks lousy and refuses to bloom. The lawn, once a cooling emerald sea of grass, is pockmarked by brown spots where the sprinklers don’t quite reach and a permanent sludge of mud where it gets over watered to compensate for the soaring temperature.

The plants aren’t the only sufferers in the summer heat. The swimming pool, even if aerated by sprays and fountains, is bath water warm. The cement is blistering and results in an odd little dance of shuffling and hopping in at attempt to have the feet make as little contact as possible with the pool deck on the way to the water.

The car is always hot. A trip to the Post Office or grocery store, isn’t long enough for the air conditioner to get going full blast. Opening the door and climbing in is like getting into an incinerator. Not that I’ve actually had that experience but I do have an active imagination.

The dogs, Kate our Irish Setter and Rose, our Springer Spaniel, refuse to go outside, except for the necessary potty trips. Kate actually sits under the sprinkler when it’s on. And then of course runs through the decomposed granite and the mulch so when she comes back in the house, one knows where she’s been and where she’s going by the paw print trail.

Both girls love their walks in the morning, but now the paraphernalia required resembles that of going on safari. Besides the requisite plastic baggies, and hand sanitizer, and emergency treats, there is the water bottle for them which attaches to your belt and a water bottle for each of us. At the half way point of the walk Rose gulps down her water. Kate on the other hand refuses to drink, she wants the water poured on her nose. That’s what she does to stay cool, puts her entire head in her water dish with her nose under water. Sometimes she even blows bubbles.

Then we have our hats and they have their little hats. You know the doggy kind that are terry cloth lined and you wet down the lining before you put them on? I don’t know if the hats actually keep the puppies any cooler but they look just darling. We have our bandannas and they have theirs. Well they did, until Rose ate hers. I suppose the bandanna just didn’t make the right fashion statement.

That’s just how it is in Fountain Hills in July, no matter how early you get up or how late you go to bed, it’s just too hot.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Three Dynasties of China Dynasty Three

Chen’s Garden, located at 16720 E. Avenue of the Fountains, 816-8880, is family owned. The inside dining room is tiny with only about ten tables. There is additional seating in the patio area, which is misted in the summer and heated in the winter. The décor is hit and miss Chinese but who cares, the food is right on and so is the service. Chen’s, offering Hunan and Szechwan cuisine, has daily lunch and dinner specials, in addition to its full lunch combo menu and dinner entrees. The hot and sour soup is a spicy broth loaded with tiny shrimp, strips of pork, tofu, and veggies. Follow that with Kung Pao shrimp in a chili sauce with scallions and peanuts, served with steamed rice, and you have yourself a satisfying dinner. Lunch combos are $4.95, with choice of entrée, fried rice, fried wonton and egg roll. Dinner entrees are $7.95 to $8.95.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Three Dynasties of China Dynasty Two

Pei Wei Asian Diner, 14835 Shea Blvd in the Eagle Mountain Shopping Center, has 62 locations in 13 states. The concept was developed by the ever popular P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, and offers more than just Chinese food. Traditional dishes such as crispy potstickers: fried dumplings stuffed with pork, cabbage, and scallions, complimented by a soy and ginger dipping sauce, are on the menu. You can also find more unusual dishes influenced by flavors from Thai, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese cooking. Try the Pad Thai rice bowl with Thai sweet and sour sauce, tofu, bean sprouts, scallions and peanuts topped with your choice of chicken, beef pork, vegetables, or Tofu. The interior of Pei Wei is modern Asian and just a bit crowded. Diners order cafeteria style, can watch their meal being prepared in the exhibition kitchen, and then delivered to their table by the friendly wait staff. Prices range from about $6.00 to $9.00 ala carte. 837-0926. Oh, Pei Wei doesn’t offer take out but does offer take away. As in drive up and you can take away your pre-ordered selection.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Three Dynasties of China Dynasty One

Fountain Hills is fortunate to have not one Chinese restaurant but three: Chen’s Garden, Pei Wei Asian Diner, and Ha Ha China.

Remember when you were a kid and you and your family would go down to your neighborhood restaurant for sweet and sour pork, fried rice, and egg drop soup? Well, family owned Ha Ha China, located at 11849 N Saguaro Blvd, 837-8889, is the Chinese restaurant of your childhood. The dining room is good sized, décor expected oriental and the food reliable. All the old Cantonese favorites are here and taste just how you remember them. The Mongolian beef is tender with just a hint of sweetness served over a bed of stir fried scallions and rice noodles. Those noodles have been crisped in hot oil and add crunch to the dish. The rice bowls are popular at lunch. Portions are hearty. Prices range from $4.00 to $8.00. Ha Ha China is the only restaurant of the three that delivers.