The Cheesecake Factory – Peoria
After watching the Mariners’ practice session on Saturday we had a hour or so before we wanted to go to our seats. I love the Arizona sunshine but at this time of year my poor little NW body has limited tolerance before becoming totally fried.
We walked across the street to The Cheesecake Factory for a cool drink. Now, I’ve been to The Cheesecake Factory many times but there are two things I think are a little odd: I’ve never had cheesecake; I’ve never been to the Bellevue or Seattle locations.
The very first time I tried them out was in Chicago at the location in the base of the John Hancock Building. In those days, I used to visit Chicago on a regular basis. The company I worked for had a location on Wacker and we also had several partners in the area. Every time I was in Chicago in the fall or winter I would try to find coffee drinks. Not lattes or mochas but Irish Coffee, Spanish Coffee, B52 Coffee, etc. I could not find a single establishment that served them (and this is a cold city in the winter!) and so it became a kind of quest.
I tried high-end bars, low-end bars and just about every bar along the Magnificent Mile, Rush Street and in the business district. Now, having bartended at times in my life I want to interject that I have a respect for bartenders’ time and I wasn’t out asking for these sometimes labor-intensive beverages during the middle of Happy Hour or anything like that. And during my quest I met many very nice bartenders who offered to put something together if I’d just give them direction. For something simple like an Irish Coffee, this is all well and good but for something complex like a Spanish Coffee (even this recipe doesn’t describe how to caramelize the sugar and cinnamon on the rim…) that never seems to work as well as it should. So my quest continued…
And then one day (this was probably in 1995?) this new place appeared a couple blocks from my hotel – The Cheesecake Factory. Hmmm. I was traveling with a friend/business associate and we actually just went in to check the place out but imagine my delight when looking over their massive menu and finding a whole page of coffee drinks! After that it became a regular stop during my fall and winter business trips to Chicago. I’m sad to say that I haven’t been to Chicago for several years and I am certainly due for a trip there – but that is another story!
At the Phoenix, or actually the Peoria Cheesecake Factory we were not looking for coffee drinks. We were looking for something cool and refreshing. Lemonade seemed to fit the bill. M and I both ordered a glass. The lemonade was wonderful. Sweet but a little tart. Lemony. Refreshing not cloying. Upon talking with the bartender we learned that he did not actually fresh-squeeze lemons (this really tasted that way) but used a special Cheesecake Factory mixture, which I’m pretty sure was simple syrup and fresh lemon juice. He mentioned that it was also featured in their Lemon Drop Cocktails. Well, that made me sit up and take notice!
We paid our bill and went back to the ball field for the game. (I should mention that the bartender offered several times to give us refills or send us to the game with lemonade in a to-go cup as part of our purchase. Very nice!) But as soon as the game was over we beelined right back to The Cheesecake Factory and I ordered a Lemon Drop. Now there are about a million ways to make this drink – everyone had their own special variation – but not many of them are very good. The sugared rim should provide a sweet contrast to the slightly tart, icy-cold beverage. It should taste like the old Lemon Drop candy that my grandmother used to have around. :-) To make matters worse I make them at home quite often and so I constantly compare those I have out and about with my own and I mostly always win.
Well this version was perfect! So perfect that I had to order a second one. About this time I thought it might also be a good idea to have a little food since I hadn’t eaten since our Denny’s breakfast, although M had that yummy Chicken Kabob at the ball park. On the recommendation of the bartender (same guy as in the morning, although a couple other guys joined him over the course of our visit) I ordered the SPICY AHI TEMPURA ROLLS – Fresh Raw Ahi Tuna Seasoned with Green Onions, Spicy Soy Sauce, Ginger & Garlic Wrapped in Nori and Flash Fried Tempura Style. It was great, too. I wanted something on the lighter side yet tasty and this fit the bill.
Well, that was enough to hold us until dinner. And after having the perfect Lemon Drop here it was really easy to see why the Bandera version just didn’t cut it.
The Cheesecake Factory – Peoria
16134 North 83rd Avenue, Peoria, AZ 85382