I was very, very grateful when we finally landed in Phoenix about half an hour ahead of schedule. One, I kind of had to pee but figured I could hold it until I got into the airport; two, I had been sitting next to a mother and her fidgety, screaming baby for the entire flight. It wasn't unbearable (baby needed to take a nap every now and then) and obviously the mother had a much worse off time than anyone sitting around her, but I wondered if I would've gotten more sleep on my 6:30 AM flight if I had sat more than a few inches away from the source of terrifying screechings and wailings and such.
My favorite Alex (you know, PARIS ALEX!) had the task of picking me up from the airport and entertaining me for the few hours before we would meet Lee Anne after church. He succeeded at both tasks by 500%. Yes, that's like 5 times the maximum. Because Alex can do that. He has powers that stretch beyond those of normal maaaaan.
While we drove towards the city center I was struck by the flatness of...everything. It is flat. It is flat and spread out, with few buildings taking advantage of vertical space. Many roads were five or seven wide with the center road being a wild card for turning right...in either direction. Alex called it the lane of death, or something to that effect. Flowers and trees neatly lined the roads, not too many that you felt like you were in a jungle (something that New Jersey sometimes feels like), but enough that made you think that you weren't in the middle of a flat desert.
"You wanna get pancakes?" suggested Alex. Wait, you mean there are people who wouldn't want to get pancakes?
I replied with a "yes," or more possibly happy shrieks of pancake joy.
But our pancake trek was not meant to be. We pulled into the parking lot of a Motel 6 attached to some wonderous pancake house, so wonderous that a hoard of people were waiting outside for a pancake brunch of wonderous pancake-ness. Crap. We didn't have enough time to wait. Back to the car we went, hanging out heads in pancake defeat while Alex clutched his gurgling stomach.
Next stop was La Grande Orange Grocery, an empire of tasty foods catered to yuppies and people who like...good food (I'm half joking about the yuppies). We entered through the back, walking past stacks of freshly baked goods and chefs bustling through the kitchen making freshly baked goods, and stopped in front of the display of breads and viennoiseries.
"They're out of croissants!" gasped Alex. Indeed, the croissant basket was empty. Like our souls. There was hardly a trace of any croissant existence. I could hear Alex's heart break at the sight of the empty croissant void and simultaneously curse the earlier croissant-hungry patrons who denied us of such buttery joy.
The line in the store was too long to get anything and waiting in it probably would've exceeded the 19 minute parking limit, so once again we left empty handed. Alex suggested that we make our own pancakes, a foolproof way to satiate our pancake desires figuring the supermarket hadn't run out of pancake mix.
The supermarket did not fail us; PANCAKES WERE A-COMIN'!
Unfortunately, our batter was a little too thick and our first pancake came out mildly obese. When Alex flipped it over (after letting it cook for a preeeeetty long time), it hit the pan with an un-pancake-like thud. Damn. But it tasted like a regular pancake. I guess an obese pig would still taste like a non-obese pig.
We modified the pancake mix by adding more milk. Now the bubbles of done-ness actually came to the surface of the pancake while it cooked, unlike the first pancake whose thickness was unpenetrable by the gassy orbs. Finally, the golden whole grain pancakes were ouuuurrrsss.
Our next stop was Barrio Cafe where we would soon meet up with Lee Anne for lunching.
While we waited for her to arrive (we were early), we munched on thick soft bread chunks and very olive-y salsa.
I also ordered a drink—a drink that WASN'T WATER. I tried the jamaica (hibiscus flower) flavored water, which was fruity, sweet an slightly tangy, a bit like cranberry juice. Alex said it was also a little spicy, but I couldn't tell until I tried his tamarind drink.
I don't remember what the drink tasted like, but it was definitely missing some kind of kick that my drink had. At the bottom of the bottle lay the muddied remains of the tamarind that gave its life to the drink. Alex looked slightly afraid by the thought of imbibing himself with the cloudy tamarind matter.
It wasn't hard to decide what I wanted when I saw the description, "slow roasted pork tacos" for the tacos de cochinita pibil. Not having eaten many tacos in my life (or Mexican food), I don't know how to rate them, but...um, I like them. I mean, I like most things with slow roasted pork, right? Those soft, juicy shreds of pork flesh are magical. MAGICAL. I've never gotten used to the messiness of the taco eating experience (pork and tomato liquids running down my hand)—perhaps I would've been better off getting a sandwich—but aside from the tactile sensation I was pleased with the porkness and the...pork...and thick, soft tortilla...and the pork.
Lee Anne, who is much more well versed in Mexican foods than I am, gave her shrimp tacos many enthusiastic thumbs up. I mean, at least two thumbs, since she has two thumbs.
Alex ordered the pastel de calabazas con queso, an omelet filled with sauted zucchini, cheese and roasted sweet and spicy peppers finished with a tomatillo sauce. I assume he liked it since he ate most/all of it. I would've finished my tacos but my stomach was on the verge of 'sploding. [insert sad face]
And...my stomach was on the verge of 'sploding partially because of the bounty of guacamole and chips we ordered. Oh man, those chips. They weren't like any other chip I had, I think because they were less like chips and more like deep fried corn saucers. Their heavy crunch satisfyingly rattled in my brain and continued to do so as I chewed on the shards of fried corny goodness. Guuuuh. Of course, it was even better with the chunky guacamole smooshed on top, in which dried cranberries wallowed amongst the folds of avocado mashings.
And then we were...quite full. Now what? MOAR FOOD? No, even I'm not that insane. You'll find out in part 2.