As Andrew and I approach age 30, we’ve realized we’re becoming old because of one major change in our lives—we’re now doing food-and-drink pairing dinners with our friends.
Much like learning to golf and complaining that nightclubs are too noisy to have a decent conversation, dinner parties are indicative of our ever-increasing age. I shudder to think of all of the politics and current events we discussed during our last culinary adventure, which quickly devolved into confirming each others’ beliefs and coming to the totally sane conclusion that everyone outside of that dining room at the moment was insane.
Oh, and we also had Indian food—or at least white-girl-made Indian butter chicken, courtesy of yours truly.
“This looks delicious!” said one friend as he took a bite. “And it IS delicious.” Then he probably said something about Bernie Sanders or the Animas River mine spill.
So basically, because I can go to the international food store and buy some garam masala, I’m clearly an Indian food master. Or so I thought…
It’s kind of amazing what happens when you challenge your own “facts.” The fact that I was an Indian culinary master worthy of a Michelin Star was obliterated when our taste buds (and the rest of our bodies, coincidentally) went to Scottsdale’s Tandoori Times.
The ornately-decorated, dimly-lit spot has a lived-in feel and, as we discovered, lived-in food. These are recipes that have been fine-tuned to perfection by Tandoori Times’ chefs, and it became apparent bite after bite.
We started with the somosa choley, a best-selling appetizer that boasts an exotic mix of mint, garbanzo beans, potatoes and green peas, and served with two soft-yet-crusty pastries. It was a flavor explosion. Fresh, bright and nuanced, the vegetarian app was filling on its own, but I could see Andrew was itching for meat. Seriously.
Andrew literally breaks out in hives if he doesn’t have some sort of meat every hour on the hour. Our sleep schedule is thoroughly screwed because of his incredibly dumb disease. Chicken nuggets and lunch meat won’t suffice. Fish can take a dive. Andrew needs real meat to survive, and it only counts if it has placed four hooves on land.
So naturally we ordered the lamb seekh kabob, because the cuter the animal, the more delicious! The minced, marinated lamb and Indian spices were combined and placed in the restaurant’s trademark tandoor to cook. Sure, it basically amounts to a meatball, but it’s one of the most interesting meatballs you’re bound to try.
And you can’t be two white people in an Indian restaurant if you don’t get the chicken tikka masala, which made my butter chicken look like prison food. (Honestly, was that mold or cilantro!?) Tandoori Times’ chicken tikka masala boasts incredible depth of flavor and impossibly creamy sauce. I was delighted with the meal and embarrassed of my attempt to even try cooking Indian food.
I drowned my shame in a trio of desserts, made especially for us by Tandoori Times. Of the ras malai, kheer and gulab juman desserts, the kheer was my favorite. Served with almond and raisons, the rice pudding was familiar enough to satisfy and exotic enough to intrigue.
You can try my version of kheer, Snack Pack Tapioca Pudding, at my next dinner party. It’s currently marinating in the back of our fridge.
As Christina said, we are rapidly aging toward the inevitable dark void of oblivion, so we’ve taken up dinner parties with our friends to distract ourselves. On weekends we gather to cook, drink, eat and be merry. Because something needs to fill the void. Even if for only a little while.
“We’re all going to die one day,” I thought while assisting Christina in preparing her meal for our friends. But you know what? We are all going to die. So do what we all do and stuff that thought way back into the far recesses of your mind, only to be overwhelmed by it again when a near-miss car accident makes us face mortality. For now, let’s eat well and partyyyy!
At these get-togethers of ours, a fair amount of wine and spirits are imbibed and often eloquent people like Christina think their intellects hold up to the buzz. In her mind, Christina gives an impassioned argument about income inequality and the dying middle class. In actuality, Christina spills her merlot on one of our guests while slurring, “This Ronald Trump guy. I don’t… I don’t like him. Oooh, cheese!”
This month we decided to let our aprons and livers have a break and we headed to Tandoori Times, a vibrant little Indian eatery tucked back in an upscale Scottsdale strip mall. Our first taste was the delicious somosa choley. Think of the samosa as an Indian knish, but with peas of both the green and chick variety. As delicious as the app was, I had meat on the mind. It had been a while since my last serving and my hands were shaking while trying to read the menu. I reached into the secret stash of warm beef jerky in my pocket and placed a piece between my lip and gums.
Christina masochistically chose the chicken tikka masala, a dish very similar to one her specialties, butter chicken. For the uninitiated, that is not the name of Paula Deen’s memoirs, but braised poultry in a fragrant curry sauce. It’s not great for you, but hey, we’re all going to be nothingness eventually.
Tandoori Times’ chicken tikka masala was decidedly healthier than Christina’s version. The chicken was cooked beautifully in the restaurant’s traditional clay oven called a tandoor. The incredible depth of flavor of the curry is difficult to describe. It’s a rollercoaster of sweet, creamy, tart and even floral flavors that makes it difficult to lay the fork down. And I didn’t. Why would I? We’re all going to die.
Ultimately, I followed my heart and it led me to meat. The lamb seekh kabob was an amazing spiced ball of lamb meat and served with lemon. Use the lemon. I can’t stress that enough. The lamb is good enough on its own, but that pop of acid really brings out the flavors of the meat.
Dat curry though. Christina wins best dish this round. No excuses from me this time—that chicken tikka masala is seriously good. I look forward to trying some more Indian cuisine and I think I’ll choose Tandoori Times again. You should too because, hey, you might not be here tomorrow.
Tandoori Times, 8140 N. Hayden Road, Suite H115, Scottsdale, 480.794.1404; 5626 W. Bell Road, Suite A103, Glendale, 602.993.1422, tandooritimes.com