The Loved One and I are just back our now customary pre-Christmas desert road trip, a lot of driving, a lot of walking, a lot of eating. Hey, what else is there?
The most startling thing I ate was a taco salad, at the Gadsden Hotel, in Douglas Arizona; that's a postcard of it above. The Gadsden is one of those once great, classic, now careworn, but still sort of magnificent, hotels, right by the Mexican border.. This one has huge a marble staircase leading to a wall of Tiffany stained glass depicting desert scenes. And there’s a restaurant called El Conquistador.
Mexican cooks have solved the problem of how to make a 2000 calorie salad – you serve a lot of fried ground beef and refried beans in a deep fried taco, shaped to form a bowl. I’d had them before but never one in this eye-popping color.
The lovely, stressed, over-apologetic waitress explained the taco was made with sun-dried tomatoes. And so we sent the rest of the trip going into supermarkets looking for them, and failing miserably.
I suppose a lot of people would imagine that by this point in my life I’d have already eaten testicles. But until this trip I hadn’t. I lost by cherry at the Old Pueblo Grill in Tucson, where they were on the menu, described as “Rocky Mountain Oysters, Breaded 'Cowboy Caviar,' horseradish cocktail sauce.” They came looking like this:
I had imagined one mighty gland sitting on a plate but in fact they were (so-to-speak) nuggetted, and frankly a bit over-breadcrumbed. If you’re the kind of person who eats with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls, then there are no great surprises lurking in a testicle, though it was softer than I’d imagined it would be, more like the texture of a brain or a sweetbread. To be honest, now that I think about it, I'm not entirely sure what critter gave up the ghost to provide this appetizer; a bull I suppose, but I'm not 100 per cent certain. I feel there’s probably more research to be done here.
The motel room where we stayed in Blythe had a menu for the nearby, recently opened restaurant, the Red Cactus Bar and Grill, featuring the Desert Dry Martini, a fairly standard martini but with a blue cheese stuffed olive in it. We hurried on down there and discovered that the menu has been tweaked. No desert martini on the menu, though our bartender, Taylor, made a perfectly good dry martini that looked like this.
The most intriguing restaurant I didn’t eat at was Carter’s Drive In, in Wilcox. Arizona. Who can argue with a larger than life cartoon fiberglass figure, actually swaying and pivoting in the wind. The place was closed when I was there but not closed down, I think.
But one that actually had closed down was the Desert Center Café, in the town of Desert Center, in California.
We actually ate there a long time ago and I know we had a very odd grilled cheese sandwich, though at this point I can’t recall what was so odd about it. There was a guy across the street picking up his mail at the post office and we talked to him and he told us the place had closed down 5 years ago and that “It wasn’t that good.” He was right about that. It wasn’t great, but it was there. And the magnificent sign still is, though I’m not sure how long for.