Monday, July 7, 2008

Stearns. Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Our best friends moved to Lake Havasu, Arizna to take over a teeny tiny little pizzeria and bar called Santiago's. J & D have taken the remodeling one small step at a time, and after several visits over the last two years I can finally now honestly say that the remodel is complete and it is fantastic on so many levels. After about 6 months they renamed the little pit stop Stearn's, started slapping on paint and wood paneling and corrugated steel everywhere, and so on.

After awhile, they put up a passel of decent televisions, and partnered with a kick ass jukebox, the bar is a great place to hang, watch sports, and sip a cold cocktail late into the evening watching the people come and go.

One afternoon during our Fourth of July, 2008 trip to the outer circle of hellatious heat, I decided I needed to stop in and taste all the things the boys had added to the menu. They have kept the really, honestly good pizza they inherited when they came, with some slightly more exotic additions like *gasp* lots of veggies and *omg* roasted garlic. But they have also added to the menu lots of crowd pleasers and midwestern specialities that belie Flick's Indianan roots. One of the crowd pleasers is the easy and fresh prawn cocktail. It's simple, it's good, it's lean protein and it ain't fried.

And that's about where that story ends. They have on the menu a smashingly delicious white bean and chicken chili, which can be ordered with or without cheese and a spring garden full of onions. This stuff is really, really good. Maybe my favorite thing on the menu.

Another common and mouth watering appetizer on the menu are simple jalapeno poppers. Nothing earth shattering here, but they taste good and the cheese inside is very cheddary, and the peppers are just spicy enough.

Deep fried dill pickles. What the hell? Apparently Flick ate these somewhere at some time and the idea of it just stuck with him. He uses good quality pickles, quarters them and dips them in a homemade batter. My D loved these and must have gone through 8 orders throughout the weekend. He likened them to a fried green tomato, with that a slight al dente crispness in the very middle but with the tart tangyness of a pickle. How do California bars throughout the state miss out on serving these?

The last appetizer I sampled were the hot wings. You may not know this, and few people do, but I harbor a major hot wing fetish. Major. Victoria Beckham major. Not the deep fried kind, but the kind in any kind of BBQ sauce. I could eat hot wings and nothing else for dinner 3 or more nights a week, as long as no one else is watching. At Stearn's these are offered three different ways. In classic Frank's Red Hot sauce, in Stearn's Secret BBQ, and the third and most gastronomically challenging, Stearn's Have-a-Burn sauce. This sauce is challenging because it is at the same time tart, sweet, tangy and spicy. When I first put one in my mouth I had no idea where the flavor was going to head. After a couple minutes, my mouth stopped panicking and I really started to enjoy the taste. It never got too too hot, and the flavor settled a little. This is a complicated homemade sauce. First, they caramelize brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Later they add three kinds of hot sauce (red & green tabasco & tapatillo) with apple cider vinegar, lime and lemon juice and a healthy amount of garlic, along with who knows what else. I wish they sold these frozen to grocery store chains. I would keep these in my freezer at all times.

For an entree, I tried the Newburgh Pig Sandwich. This is a BBQ pulled pork sandwich on grilled wheat bread. I ordered it open face so I could really see what was happening with the pig. Now, I don't really understand pulled pork. I was surprised at how much BBQ sauce seasoned the lean pork. It was delicious, but for some reason I was expecting a slightly dryer meat. Upon further research, recipes, food sites, pages dedicated to southern BBQ, I find that there are many ways to approach pulled pork and a lot of them include heaps of BBQ sauce. That's what you're gonna get at Stearn's, with melted cheese and red onions.

My second entree, LOL, were the baby back ribs. These ribs are cooked the same basic way that the pulled pork is, but without quite so much sauce, and obviously it is a different cut of meat. Both are boiled/broiled in pints of Full Moon Ale and BBQ sauce in a deep pan under the broiler, until the meat is literally falling off the bone. I look forward to coming to Stearn's again later this year and ordering these ribs as my only entree (following, of course, the hot wings).

Stearn's has a full bar and they pour the drinks nice and strong. And Flick has a well thought out collection of draft and bottled beers, something for everyone.

We were done eating. We were SO done eating. We planned to never eat again. And Flick brought out something special, with a nice little kick. He brought us out one of Grandma Flick's gigantic pancakes, seasoned lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon, and (for those 21+) a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream. These pancakes are the physical embodiment of the concept of nom.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

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