Chow, Baby: Wednesday, January 30, 2003
Oh, Those Phoenicians

Chow, Baby had never thought of Arizona’s largest city as having a unique gastronomy. But there’s the sign, almost as big as Sun Devil Stadium, in the 2200 block of Hemphill: Celaborelle’s Phoenician Cuisine. And like the home of the Cardinals (the stadium’s actually in Tempe, but Chow, Baby can’t think of a single cultural attraction in Phoenix itself), Celaborelle’s is small and old, yet charming. It doesn’t sell beer, but you’re welcome to bring your own.

Celaborelle’s is buffet-only; in an enclosed porch off the living room is a treasure trove of steam tables. Garlic and coriander and cumin — the aroma of Arizona! — rise from unlabeled dishes like, well, let’s see, there was a beef and eggplant concoction, and baked chicken and potatoes in a sauce, and what looked like spinach pie, and so forth. At the far end was the “cold” table with appetizers like ... wait a minute ... hummus and yogurt ... a thought is surfacing ... tabouli and black olives ... not Phoenix, dolt, Phoenicia!

Chow, Baby put away plate after plate of delicious mystery meat and seven varieties of baklava while dredging up sixth-grade lessons about the Phoenicians: They’re all dead now, but in olden times they sailed, traded, and colonized all around the Mediterranean from what is now Lebanon and Israel. And they probably invented sesame-thyme pizza, like the yummy one delivered to Chow, Baby with the tiny check — $6.95. Great traders? Chow, Baby definitely got the better end of that deal.

Vast Wasteland

Bluebonnet Café on Haltom Road just off Belknap promises home cooking “like Mom used to make.” And boy, does it deliver. A couple of bites of Friday’s lunch special of turkey and dressing threw Chow, Baby into the Way-Back Machine, to the days when its own beloved mama used to stop off at the Piggly Wiggly after work for a package of sliced meat, a jar of gravy, and a can of store-brand green beans. She’d heat it all up, bellow at Chow, Baby and sibs to turn off the cartoons, and dinner was served. Mmm-mmm.

The owners of the Bluebonnet Café are the Quirozes — wacky redheaded Judy and handsome Hispanic Carlos. These descriptions are wild guesses on Chow, Baby’s part, based on the explosion of I Love Lucy memorabilia at the Bluebonnet; the photos and ads, dolls and trinkets cover every possible inch of wall and display-counter space. Chow, Baby, whose sweetie occasionally suggests a Mork and Mindy night, would never judge another’s choice of tv idol. But come on, Lucy Ricardo is possibly the worst cook in TV Land. Was there anything she didn’t burn or blow up?

Nothing was burned at the Bluebonnet, and in fact the buns and rolls were the best part of the meals. They alone were hot and tasted fresh-made. Everything else, from the bland orange chili on the burger to the icky-sweet peach cobbler, tasted store-bought and heated up from a can — just like Mom used to make.

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